Found in many modern day cooking oils, omega 6 fatty acids have been shown in a number of animal studies to promote cancer formation and growth. At the same time, antioxidants have been heralded by nutritionists for their cancer-fighting properties.
Antioxidants are molecules that prevent oxidation of molecules. Oxidation chemical reactions create free radicals that can damage DNA in the human body, which scientists believe is linked with malignancy of the cells.
Researchers in Washington, D.C., decided to test different antioxidants to see how they interact with omega 6. The study revealed that not all antioxidants are created equal.
"They all have different properties," explained Fung-Lung Chung, lead of author of the study and a professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi. "They play different roles in various tissues. What we find in liver cancer may not hold true for other cancers."
The research of Chung and his colleagues looked into how exactly omega 6 fatty acids damage genes, and how antioxidant involve themselves in this interaction.
While the researchers found that antioxidant properties of vitamin E encouraged omega 6-related damage, antioxidants in green tea mitigated damages. Another antioxidant, alpha-lipoic acid, found in spinach and broccoli -- already proven to have other anti-cancer properties -- had no effect on omega 6.
"Our findings are beginning to shed light on why omega 6 fatty acids are believed to have negative health effects," Chung said, "but we have a long way to go before we can make definitive health claims on these antioxidants."