On Nutrition

DEAR DR. BLONZ: My very close friend has been diagnosed with cancer. He is frustrated, and has confided in me that he is considering the use of “food-grade hydrogen peroxide.” The idea, as he explained it, is that taking hydrogen peroxide orally raises the oxygen-saturation levels of tissue cells throughout the body, and that this helps kill the cancer cells. He made it seem so matter-of-fact. Do you have any knowledge about whether this makes sense, and if so, how to use this compound? -- S.F., Las Vegas

DEAR S.F.: My sincere wishes for your friend in this battle. However, I must express reservations about his thinking relating to hydrogen peroxide.

We are all interested in finding ways to help the body fight cancer, but we need to consider our weapons carefully. Hydrogen peroxide is a water molecule with loosely attached extra oxygen on board. It acts as a powerful oxidizer, even more powerful than chlorine bleach. It is corrosive to the nose, throat and lungs and can cause irreversible tissue damage to the eyes, including blindness. To give an idea of how strong it is, hydrogen peroxide at high concentrations is used to help decontaminate industrial waste. Not exactly the stuff you would voluntarily take into your body.

A very dilute solution (3 percent by weight) of hydrogen peroxide is sold as a topical antiseptic for use in first aid, but even at this dilution, it is for external use only. If diluted even further by mixing with an equal amount of water, this product can be used as a gargle and oral rinse; however, it is NOT to be swallowed.

Hydrogen peroxide has been promoted as a panacea, with claims that it can cure a variety of ailments, including cancer, AIDS and arthritis. Irrespective of the fact that the term “evidence-based” has been shown the door in certain government circles, I can say there is no reliable evidence that hydrogen peroxide can perform such feats. Indeed, hydrogen peroxide is not approved for human consumption. Its intake has resulted in deaths and serious injuries.

More relevant to your query, its effects in the body would run contrary to your friend’s interests. Consider a paper in the Aug. 1, 2011 issue of the journal Cell Cycle, entitled “Hydrogen peroxide fuels aging, inflammation, cancer metabolism and metastasis.” The paper describes how hydrogen peroxide is involved in the start and spread of cancer -- not its demise. Not the qualities one would seek in a substance taken internally to help fight cancer, or any other disease.

Please have your friend discuss this with his health professional, as it could interfere with other steps being taken. As should be obvious, given all the inherent dangers, the idea that drinking dilute hydrogen peroxide can increase the oxygen level in cells and help the immune system to destroy cancer is a bit ludicrous.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

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