Antioxidants Relieve the Adverse Effects of Chemotherapy

November 15, 2004

Children suffering from leukaemia tend to be more ill and be hospitalized longer if they are not given antioxidants.

The primary effect of chemotherapy is not through free radical activity but it does strain the organism with free radicals. Free radicals are combatted by antioxidants like vitamin C and -E. This piece of information is important, because not taking enough antioxidants while going through chemoterapy will result in more adverse effects and the treatment results can be delayed.

American doctors from several universities have published these results after having studied 103 children receiving chemotherapy for leukaemia. An evaluation of the children’s diet showed that they usually only got 1/3 – 2/3 of the recommended or normal amounts of various antioxidants. The reason for this is probably the treatment causing general malaise and reduced appetite.

The children who got the most vitamin C were hospitalized for a significantly shorter period and the children who got the most vitamin E suffered fewer infections and fewer adverse effects of the chemotherapy. The doctors conclude that a low intake of antioxidants results in more negative effects of the treatment.

The results can be related to a study of 49 American women who received chemotherapy for breast cancer and were asked about their use of dietary supplements. Multivitamins and vitamin E were the preferred supplements among the 35 women who did use supplements.

The women who took these vitamins maintained a better immune defence during the treatment – i.e. the number of white blood cells in their blood was less reduced during treatment compared to the women who did not use vitamin supplements. On the other hand, the number of white blood cells was more reduced in women taking relatively large amounts of the vitamin B9, folic acid.

It is very common for cancer patients to use dietary supplements. More than every other cancer patient at a hospital clinic in London used supplements, but less than half of them had told their GP about it.

By: Vitality Council

Kennedy DD, Tucker KL, Ladas ED, et al. Low antioxidant vitamin intakes are associated with increases in adverse effects of chemotherapy in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Am J Clin Nutr (United States), Jun 2004, 79(6) p1029-36.