Benefits of antioxidants
Certain antioxidants have been shown to reduce cancer risk, particularly when provided to individuals who are lacking nutrients.
Antioxidants & Gender
However, this effect has for the most part only been seen in men. Women in these studies did not have significant reductions in cancer risk with antioxidants.
More research is needed
At this point, we don't know which antioxidant nutrients help and which ones hurt. Some, such as beta-carotene, can actually increase your risk of cancer as shown below.
How they work
Antioxidants prevent cell damage by counteracting free radicals.
Effect on Disease
Research on Antioxidants and disease prevention has shown mixed results.
Berries & Fruit
Your body makes vitamin A with beta-carotene, commonly found in carrots.
Found in all sorts of fruits, Vitamin C is a very commonly consumed antioxidant.
Vitamin E can be found in nuts and seeds.
One study has found that antioxidants may potentially reduce risk of cancer, but only in men.
This study showed an interesting reduction in cancer risk among men, however this did not translate into an overall lower risk of cancer. Additionally, since they were given a combination of different nutrients, it's impossible to tell which antioxidant had the strongest effect.
Selenium, a potent antioxidant, has been shown to potentially reduce cancer risk among men, particularly former smokers.
This study shows that selenium may help men, particularly former smokers. As with many nutrients, they only show benefits when given to those who lack them. Further research is needed however before we know for sure.
Surprisingly, some antioxidants may cause cancer if you take too much.
This clinical trial shows that giving very high doses of antioxidants may not help. In fact, it can potentially increase your risk of cancer.
Antioxidants & Cancer
Antioxidants may have some effect on cancer, but the data is mixed. Taking nutrients when you lack them is in general a good thing, as shown by the benefits of supplements for those who have low levels. However, taking very high doses can be dangerous.