Smokers benefit from an antioxidant-rich diet

Reduce The Risk Of Lung Cancer

Most cigarette smokers eventually realize that if they ever want to attain optimal health, the cigarettes have to go.

But until the day comes when that last pack of cigarettes gets tossed away, there’s something smokers can do that may help reduce their risk of lung cancer: get plenty of antioxidants.

Previous studies have indicated that high intake of the antioxidant beta-carotene (which the body converts into vitamin A), may put smokers at greater risk of lung cancer. But a study published last month in the American Journal of Epidemiology puts a new spin on the question of smokers and beta-carotene intake.

Researchers at Yale University School of Medicine examined the medical and dietary data of more than 27,000 Finnish, male smokers whose records were followed for nearly 15 years. Those who had the highest intake of a variety of antioxidants (vitamins C and E, carotenoids and flavonoids) had a 16 percent lower risk of lung cancer, compared to men with the lowest overall antioxidant intake.

The implication is that a high intake of beta-carotene alone may pose a risk for smokers, but the drawbacks are minimized when beta-carotene is consumed with other antioxidants.

The study also found that lung cancer risk decreased by 25 percent among male smokers who had the highest intake of meat.

Of course, smokers aren’t the only ones who benefit from an antioxidant-rich diet. Previous studies have shown that lung cancer risk drops among non-smokers who get plenty of antioxidants.

Fresh fruits and vegetables generally contain good amounts of antioxidants. For a list of foods with the highest antioxidant content, just go to our web site at and check the e-Alert “Tonight’s Top 20” (7/20/04).


“Development of a Comprehensive Dietary Antioxidant Index and Application to Lung Cancer Risk in a Cohort of Male Smokers” American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 160, No. 1, 7/1/04,
“New Data Finds Antioxidant Combo Decreases Smokers’ Cancer Risk”, 8/9/04,