Vitamin Vitality

When Mark Masthay shines light on vegetable molecules to learn more about lung cancer, he's continuing research that began when he forgot to keep that same chemical in the dark.

Mark was a grad student then, at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, experimenting with beta carotene - the compound that gives carrots their color, so it was a bright orange liquid when Masthay took it to the chemistry lab one morning. Finding the lab occupied, he took the solution back to his desk and put it by a window.

After 45 minutes of sunlight, "it had turned totally colorless," said Masthay, now the University of Dayton's chemistry department chairman. "And it was irreversible. It didn't come back."

That accident illustrated something important about the way vitamins and other nutrients affect our health. It all depends on context. Beta carotene, for example, can be harmful by itself but healthy in a carrot, or harmful in the lungs but healthy in the eyes.

Like beta carotene, the vitamin C and E complexes in fruits and vegetables are known anti-oxidants. They slow down the natural oxidation of cells that's implicated in heart disease, some cancers and weakened immune function. But most vitamins C and E in dietary supplements tend to increase oxidation, not inhibit it. Read more about vitamins and minerals that help fight cancer in Dr. Hull's cancer prevention diet.

From Cancercompass News: Cancer Nutrition.

Posted January 2007 | Permanent Link


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