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Antioxidant-Rich Diet Helps Fight Leukemia
cancer ^ | 12.27.04

Posted on 01/12/2005 10:51:21 PM PST by Coleus

Antioxidant-Rich Diet Helps Fight Leukemia
As if undergoing chemotherapy isn't trying enough, kids with the most common form of childhood leukemia receiving this treatment may also experience a significant reduction in their antioxidant and micronutrient levels. This decrease could lead to severe side effects from the chemotherapy.

However, there may be a ray of hope amidst this dark cloud.

According to a study, children could improve antioxidant and micronutrient levels and prevent some of the adverse side effects of chemotherapy by simply incorporating more fruits and vegetables into their diets.

The study, prompted by parental concern regarding children's safety in taking antioxidant supplements (such supplements might affect the high cure rate experienced with leukemia), involved more than 100 recently diagnosed children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The children had their antioxidant levels, antioxidant capacity and oxidative damage measured during their first six months of chemotherapy treatment.


  • Blood levels of vitamin E decreased over time, while vitamin A and total carotenoids increased
  • Vitamin C and oxidative damage increased within the first few months and declined by the sixth month.
  • Antioxidant levels were associated with side effects of the treatment; antioxidant capacity decreased throughout the course of the study
  • Children with higher concentrations of vitamins A, E and total carotenoids experienced fewer poor outcomes (such as infections and toxicity)

Based on the findings, researchers emphasized the importance of eating more fruits and vegetables -- which may provide a more balanced mix of antioxidants -- in addition to working with a nutritionist to improve the child's diet. December 27, 2004. December 27, 2004

Healthful Diet Urged for Kids Undergoing Chemo

MONDAY, Dec. 27 (HealthDayNews) -- Kids undergoing chemotherapy for the most common form of childhood leukemia have significant reductions in their antioxidant and micronutrient levels, which could lead to bad side effects from the treatment.

If these children would eat more fruits and vegetables, they could improve these levels of antioxidants and micronutrients and prevent some of the negative side effects of chemotherapy, a new study suggests.

"We got interested in looking at this because many parents had approached us about the safety and effectiveness of using antioxidant supplements during chemotherapy for treating leukemia," said lead researcher Dr. Kara M. Kelly, an associate professor of pediatric oncology at Columbia University.

To find out, Kelly and her colleagues first had to understand what happened to levels of vitamins A, E and C during chemotherapy. They studied 103 children who had just been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

Kelly and her colleagues took blood samples at diagnosis, after initial treatment, and again after treatment had been intensified, according to their report in the Dec. 27 online edition of Pediatric Blood and Cancer.

The researchers found that, during therapy, oxidative stress increased and antioxidant levels decreased. They also found that antioxidant levels were linked to the side effects of treatment.

"Many children were deficient in antioxidants," Kelly said. "In some incidents, children who were deficient in antioxidants had more side effects from chemotherapy."

Kelly's group noted that children with higher concentrations of vitamins A, E and total carotenoids, had fewer poor outcomes, such as infections and toxicity. However, higher levels of vitamin E oxidative damage were linked with an increased risk of negative side effects.

"There is still a lot more we have to understand about it," Kelly said. "It's not like we can say, 'Take a supplement and it will take care of these side effects.'"

Kelly doesn't think that taking a vitamin supplement will confer any benefit. "We really need to focus on improving the children's diet," she said.

"We would like to develop an intervention that is going to get them to eat more fruits and vegetables. That way you are going to get a more balanced mix of antioxidants, which may help to minimize some of the side effects of therapy."

Kelly advises that parents work with a nutritionist and the child's doctor to improve his or her diet. "In cancer treatment, a diet with more fruits and vegetables is going to have a lot more protective benefits and help the child to tolerate the chemotherapy better," she said.

"It is not clear if this is something about the children, or if the levels of these substances make a difference," said Dr. Herman Kattlove, a medical oncologist and spokesman for the American Cancer Society.

Kattlove is concerned that increasing the levels of antioxidants with supplements might affect the high cure rate experienced with leukemia. "We're doing so well, you don't want to fiddle with things unless you know what you're doing. Before anyone gives these children vitamins, one needs to do some prospective studies," he said.

Kattlove agrees that it's a given that children should eat a healthful diet. However, he notes the patients undergoing chemotherapy often find it hard to eat. "If antioxidants really make a difference, then you may need to go to supplements," he said. "I can't imagine kids on chemotherapy eating salads."

More information

The National Cancer Institute can tell you more about ALL.


Antioxidants May Help Kids with Leukemia

NEW YORK DEC 27, 2004 (Reuters Health) - Children being treated for acute lymphoblastic (ALL) seem more able to deal with their treatment if their levels of antioxidants don't drop too much, new study findings suggest.

outcomes among adults are better when they have higher antioxidant concentrations, Dr. Kara M. Kelly and her colleagues note in the journal Pediatric Blood and Cancer.  However, little is known about antioxidant levels in children with cancer.

The team therefore followed 103 children newly diagnosed with ALL, measuring antioxidant levels, antioxidant capacity, and oxidative damage during the first 6 months of treatment.

Overall, blood levels of vitamin E decreased over time, while total carotenoids and vitamin A, increased.  Vitamin C and oxidative damage increased over the first few months, then declined by the sixth month, the researchers found. 

Antioxidant capacity decreased throughout the study, "suggesting that the pool of flavanoids is reduced with initiation of chemotherapy."

The children with higher concentrations of vitamin A, vitamin E and total carotenoids, tended to have "fewer dose reductions, fewer infections, improved quality of life, less delay in treatment schedule, reduced toxicity, and fewer days spent in the hospital," Kelly's group writes.

Although more research is needed, the investigators say the current findings suggest that children with ALL may experience fewer treatment-related if the amount of fruits and vegetables in their diet is increased.


TOPICS: Food; Health/Medicine; Science
KEYWORDS: antioxidant; antioxidants; cancer; foods; freeradicals; fruit; health; leukemia; supplements; vegetables; vitamins

1 posted on 01/12/2005 10:51:21 PM PST by Coleus
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