Radiation exposure is cumulative over a lifetime, but you can easily reduce the damaging effects

Undoing the damage

Unfortunately, this savings is radiation. And I hate to tell you, but your body keeps the same account.

We all get exposed to radiation. You get dental x-rays. A chest x-ray here and there. Some security scanners use x-rays. You even pick up radiation when you fly by jet.

Any one of those exposures alone poses little risk.

But two years ago, scientists found out that these exposures are cumulative. Years of exposure can add up to considerable risk. Naturally, risk rises for those who receive higher exposures. For instance, radiation therapy places a huge “deposit” in this unwanted savings.

That’s the bad news.

The good news: University of Pennsylvania researchers believe they found a way to make withdrawals from your radiation savings account.

Compounding interest

Imagine a drug that protects you from radiation damage. That would be a true wonder drug! It would revolutionize radiation therapy for cancer.

But since we’re imagining, let’s go all the way. Let’s say the drug is inexpensive and easy to find. And best of all, comes with no side effects. None. In fact, when you take this drug, it provides additional health benefits.

Ridiculous, isn’t it? It’s inconceivable.

But that’s exactly the treatment the U. Penn team developed. Only it’s not a drug. It’s flaxseed.

The researchers gave flaxseed to mice. Some got it before radiation exposure, and some after exposure. Twice as many of the mice survived compared to healthy mice that didn’t get flaxseed.

But the results went far beyond survival.

Flaxseed-fed mice had higher body weight and less lung inflammation. Lung fibrosis was significantly limited. Fibrosis causes irreversible stiffening of tissue.

Most importantly, these benefits occurred even in mice given flaxseed AFTER radiation exposure.

Researchers typically caution that animal studies are too preliminary to recommend promising treatments. But in this case, the authors say they’ve actually incorporated flaxseed into their own diets. And why not? Flaxseed is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.

Side effects: zero.

The U. Penn team is planning a flaxseed trial for cancer patients treated with radiation therapy. Needless to say, I’m going to follow that one closely. We can’t overstate the effects it might have on cancer patients’ quality of life.

“Dietary flaxseed prevents radiation-induced oxidative lung damage, inflammation and fibrosis in a mouse model of thoracic radiation injury” Cancer Biology & Therapy, Vol. 8, No. 1, January 2009, landesbioscience.com
“Penn Study Shows an Ancient Crop Effective in Protecting Against a 21st Century Hazard” University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine press release, 8/9/11, uphs.upenn.edu

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