Cut Chemo Side Effects: More antioxidants may reduce adverse effects

Many children undergoing chemotherapy have nutritional deficiencies that may be increasing unwanted side effects of the treatment, say researchers from Columbia University in New York, NY.

In a study on 103 children aged 1 to 18 years undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia, only 66% met dietary recommendations for vitamin E, 30% for total carotenoids, 59% for beta-carotene, and 29% for vitamin A. They also found that only four children took any type of antioxidant supplement.

The researchers reported that children with the lowest intake of antioxidants were most likely to experience adverse side effects of chemotherapy. Conversely, those with higher antioxidant intake had fewer side effects. For example, higher vitamin E intakes were associated with a lower incidence of infection. Similarly, those with higher intakes of beta-carotene were less likely to experience toxic reactions to chemotherapy. Higher intake of vitamin C was associated with less toxicity, fewer delays in chemotherapy, and fewer days in the hospital.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2004;79:1029-1036