Which dietary supplements help fight cancer? By Divina Ramirez for Prevention
Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. According to recent reports from the World Health Organization (WHO), about one in six deaths around the world is due to cancer.
That said, cancer is a preventable disease. Prevention is also the most cost-effective long-term approach to cancer. And even if cancer cells have begun to spread, certain micronutrients and plant compounds can help reverse this progression and/or eliminate cancer cells for good.
Although it’s important to get these nutrients from organic foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, dietary supplements can help give the immune system a boost. Loaded with herbal extracts, vitamins and minerals, certain supplements can help minimize the risk of cancer and neutralize existing cancer cells.
These heart-healthy oils have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects against cellular damage caused by free radicals. Cellular damage is a precursor to the activation of cancer cells. In addition, a 2015 review published in Breast Cancer Research found that omega-3 oils helped reduce the risk of breast cancer in at-risk women as well as in breast cancer survivors.
Green tea leaves are an excellent source of plant compounds called polyphenols that can reduce inflammation and neutralize disease-causing free radicals. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), the main active component of green tea, is also known for its protective effects against chemotherapy-induced side effects. You can opt for green tea extracts or EGCG supplements.
Garlic supplements contain active compounds like allicin, alliin and ajoene that have potent antibacterial and antioxidant properties. Experts believe that these compounds are responsible for garlic’s anti-cancer activities. Garlic is also hailed for its protective effects against deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) damage and carcinogenic substances.
Plant compounds in red onions, such as quercetin and anthocyanin, cause cancer cells to undergo apoptosis or programmed cell death. A recent study published in Food Research International confirmed that red onions were effective in eliminating colon and breast cancer cells.
Ginger is one of the most popular natural remedies worldwide. It is often used to treat digestive problems like nausea and indigestion. It has also been studied for its potent anti-cancer activities. A 2015 review found that ginger played an important role in the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal cancer thanks to its high gingerol, shogaol and amino acid content.
This popular kitchen spice is also a go-to natural treatment for pain and inflammation. Curcumin, the main compound in turmeric, works as an antioxidant to inhibit tumor growth and the proliferation of cancer cells. Curcumin also causes cancer cells to die. You can purchase turmeric whole or ground. There are also turmeric tea bags and curcumin supplements available in the market.
Vitamin D is known for its health benefits related to bone health and muscle development. But a number of epidemiological studies have established that vitamin D also exhibits anti-cancer activities. Adequate vitamin D intake and higher blood levels of vitamin D are linked to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer. Vitamin D supplements are available as either vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) or vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).
Several vitamins and plant compounds act as antioxidants that counter the damaging effects of free radicals. Antioxidants also inhibit the spread of cancer cells and tumor growth. These antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E and plant pigments like beta carotene and lycopene, all of which are available as supplements.
Certain dietary supplements can help combat cancer cells and reduce the risk of different kinds of cancer. Some of these supplements also minimize the harmful effects of conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy. (Related: Chemotherapy linked to mitochondrial dysfunction in skeletal muscle.)
That said, it is important to note that supplements should not replace a balanced diet. If you’d rather go the organic route, eat foods rich in anti-cancer nutrients and compounds such as those discussed in this article.