In the previous issue of our Health Science News Page, we discussed the hazards of radiation exposure. Body imaging through X-rays and CT scans is extremely valuable and can be a lifesaver in many emergency cases. However, because they are non-invasive, fast and painless tools for diagnosis, X-rays and CT scans are being overused.
In the past few decades, we are all subject to excessive and unmeasured radiation exposure through sources such as substances in the earth’s crust and space, microwave ovens, electric power lines, radio signals, cell phones, airport scanners and even transcontinental flights. A recent study highlighted how even a minimal dose of radiation received from these sources has a cumulative effect and is proven to lead to damage to cellular DNA, which could lead to cancers decades after such exposure.
Children, young adults, and women have the highest risk of developing radiation-induced cancer in their lifetime. Meanwhile, some experts estimate that approximately 40-50% of pediatric CT scans are unnecessary. Children are 10 times more sensitive to the same dose of radiation than an adult, and one-third of those getting a CT scan are aged 10 or younger. The bones and torso of children are thin and thus do not offer enough protection from radiation-induced damage to their vital and reproductive organs. Children have a longer lifespan ahead of them to manifest the hazards of radiation after such unnecessary exposure. Moreover, during their growing years the immature and rapidly dividing cells are more prone to suffer DNA damage. Women are similarly at higher risk of developing diseases after radiation exposure. One study projected that one in 270 women who undergo a cardiac CT scan at age 40 to study coronary blood vessels will develop some form of cancer, as opposed to one in 600 men who undergo the same procedure.
Though everyone should be careful and try to avoid excessive radiation, it may not always be possible. Therefore, it is important to incorporate a daily regimen of micronutrients in the diet.
|VITAMINS C, A & E: In addition to other protective effects, vitamin C is most important in preventing genetic damage to chromosomes, as well as protecting bone marrow cells. It also acts synergistically with antioxidants such as vitamins A and E to prevent radiation-induced death of healthy cells and to induce cell death (apoptosis) in damaged cells.|
|PHYTONUTRIENTS: Green tea extract is unique in providing protection to rapidly dividing cells in the digestive system and bone marrow, and reducing the damaging effects of the impact of radiation. Quercetin provides protection to chromosomes and mitochondrial DNA. Resveratrol protects the most radiation-sensitive tissues in the liver and digestive organs. Curcumin protects normal cells from radiation damage as well as increasing the activity of the genes responsible for cancer cell death.|
|OTHER NUTRIENTS: N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) is known to act synergistically with vitamins C and E to protect the cells, even when it is taken immediately after radiation exposure. Minerals such as zinc and manganese are also vital cofactors in natural antioxidant protection. Zinc is known to selectively protect bone marrow, and especially the red blood cells. Zinc and manganese together provide powerful protection to cellular mitochondria.|
Although many of these studies are conducted in controlled laboratory settings, it is already recommended that airline crews and astronauts take high doses of antioxidant micronutrients. In general, people do not take such precautions, owing to a lack of health awareness. It is crucial to take control of our own health by continually maintaining the antioxidant levels in the body and increasing them as necessary.