Are you’re scheduled for a medical imaging procedure that involves exposure to radiation? If so, you may want to protect your cells by eating more antioxidant-rich foods. A new study presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s Scientific Meeting shows that antioxidants help to protect cells against the effects of ionizing radiation from imaging studies such as CAT scans.
Concerns about Radiation from CT Scans
Most people don’t stop to consider how much radiation they’re exposed to when their doctor orders a CT scan. In many cases it’s substantial. An example? A regular chest x-ray delivers about 10 milli-rems of radiation – but a chest CT sends a whopping 580 milli-rems of ionizing radiation your way. Combine this with the fact that you may need more than one scan to make a diagnosis, and it’s easy to see why experts advise people to talk to their doctor about alternative studies such as MRI that don’t involve radiation exposure.
Can Antioxidants Reduce Cell Damage From Medical Imaging Procedures?
Ionizing radiation exposure from CT scans damage cells by causing free radicals to form. These free radicals damage DNA and increase the risk of cancer. Antioxidants help to prevent free radicals from forming – so they offset the effects of some of the radiation absorbed by the body during imaging studies.
According to this small study, taking antioxidants before exposure to radiation from CT scanning reduces DNA damage. To test this idea, they gave volunteers a proprietary mixture of antioxidants before they received a medical imaging procedure that involved radiation exposure. Another group didn’t get antioxidants before their imaging test. After the procedure they looked at the DNA of the volunteers to see how much damage their cells sustained. The results? Those who took the antioxidant formula before the procedure had fewer signs of DNA damage.
What Does This Mean?
If you have to get a medical imaging procedure that involves radiation exposure, increase your intake of antioxidant-rich foods at least one day before. Unfortunately, you’ll probably have to eat a lot of antioxidants to get significant protection since they’re not well absorbed. In this study, they used a blend of antioxidants in supplement form to increase absorption.
Choose colorful fruits and vegetables, especially dark-colored berries, and drink green tea the day. Other good sources of antioxidants are pecans, walnuts and black beans. These foods are not only recommended before exposure to imaging radiation, they’re good for you every day, because they help to keep cells healthy. Enjoy the many health benefits of antioxidant-rich foods, especially if you’re getting a CAT scan.
Eurekalert.org. “Antioxidant Formula Prior to Radiation Exposure May Prevent DNA Damage”
Merck Manual. Eighteenth edition. 2006.