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Mixed News About Antioxidants: Some Damage DNA, Others Kill Cancer Cells

March 19, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
Using high-throughput chemical screening systems and robotics, U.S. researchers tested 4,000 chemicals for their impact on DNA, finding that 22 antioxidants actually damaged DNA. Three of the antioxidants – resveratrol, genistein and baicalein – are marketed or being studied as treatments for a variety of disorders, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteopenia and osteoporosis and chronic hepatitis, as well as serving as an anti-aging treatment. However, in addition to damaging DNA, some antioxidants actually destroyed dividing cells, including tumor cells. The researchers warned that this surprising ability may be good for treating cancer, but not so good for treating other disorders, including diabetes.
J. T. Fox et al., "High-throughput genotoxicity assay identifies antioxidants as inducers of DNA damage response and cell death", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 19, 2012, © National Academy of Sciences
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