WatchMojo learns more about how our diet affects our risk of developing cancer, as well as the role of antioxidants in our health.
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Rebecca Brayton: Antioxidants, free radicals, organic eating, foods that prevent cancer; everyone is looking for that miracle cure. Hi! I’m Rebecca Brayton and welcome to watchmojo.com. Today, Dr. Joe Schwarcz will be shedding some light of some of the health world’s most uttered buzz words. What really are antioxidants and are they the miracle they’re purported to be? Dr. Joe Schwarcz: When the cells in our body use oxygen in the process of respiration, they convert it to what we call free radicals and those free radicals are very, very active. They’re so active that they can actually affect proteins and DNA in our body and that can lead to all kinds of problems including cancer but our body’s equipped with antioxidants which neutralize these rogue oxygen species. Any time that we eat a fruit or a vegetable, there will be some compounds in there that have this ability of neutralizing free radicals but whether or not to taking the isolated antioxidants does the same thing? That’s much more questionable. Male: Of course you’re aware that free radicals can damage your cells and your DNA. The key to fighting that off is to get a complex with a wide variety of antioxidants. Dr. Joe Schwarcz: There are all kinds of study showing that when we take those antioxidants, put them in a capsule and use them in that fashion, they don’t deliver the same way as when they are present in the food. Rebecca Brayton: Is organic really better? Dr. Joe Schwarcz: Organic does not mean “no pesticides.” There are large varieties of pesticides that are allowed in organic produce, it’s just that they have to come from nature. They can’t be synthetic which as we discussed before, doesn’t guarantee anything. A compound called retinol widely used in organic agriculture has been linked with Parkinson’s disease the same way as some synthetic pesticides, so it’s the pesticide or quality that matters, not the origin. Rebecca Brayton: Are they actually foods that prevent cancer? Dr. Joe Schwarcz: If you look around the world and you see different patterns of disease, China for example used to be an area where stomach cancer was rampant because they eat a lot of very, very highly salted foods, a lot of smoked preserved foods and those are known to contain carcinogens. The suggestion is that everyday you eat five to ten servings of fruits and vegetables. It doesn’t mean that you should eliminate meat but we don’t need to have the 16 oz. steak hanging off the plate. The way to look at nutrition is the overall composition of the diet. In the scientific community, there is very little controversy about this.