A Nobel Prize-winning scientist has warned some multivitamins containing antioxidants could interfere with some cancer treatments
Antioxidants are natural compounds known to combat free radicals, the harmful molecules that damage DNA. Professor Watson – who co-founded the discovery of the DNA “double helix” structure over five decades ago – argues that antioxidants don’t have the same free-radical fighting effect with late-stage cancer.
In the study, published in the journal Open Biology, Prof Watson says that high levels of antioxidants may interfere with and potentially counteract treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy from working.
"In light of the recent data strongly hinting that much of late-stage cancer's untreatability may arise from its possession of too many antioxidants, the time has come to seriously ask whether antioxidant use much more likely causes than prevents cancer,” he wrote.
On the other hand, antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables are safe for patients to consume as part of a healthy diet, Prof Watson said.
"Blueberries [which are high in antioxidants] best be eaten because they taste good, not because their consumption will lead to less cancer."
Professor Ian Olver from the Australian Cancer Council advises cancer suffers to be upfront with their doctor about the supplements they’re taking during treatment.
“I don't think [this study] is cause for alarm, I think it's just cause for caution and to make sure that your treating doctor knows exactly what you're taking in case there is an interaction and you can be warned against it or perhaps stop taking it for the time you're on other medication."
Prof Watson admits more studies are needed to test his breakthrough theory which he’s described as "among my most important work since the double helix."