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A Guide to Supplements for Seniors

Anti-Cancer Supplements for Seniors

While cancer must be treated by a physician, there is a growing body of studies that suggest the following supplements may help fight this dreaded disease.

Grapeseed Extract

Grapeseed extract is high in proanthocyanidin phytochemicals, which act as antioxidants and are thought to help protect against heart disease and cancer. Clinical trials with grapeseed phytochemicals have found that they improve peripheral circulation, improve the condition of the retina in the eye, and have anti-inflammatory effects on the skin.

Grapeseed extract supplements are generally considered safe, though some animal studies have shown liver toxicity at high doses. It is typically a cheaper alternative to pycnogenol, a trademark product that has no generic equivalent.


Promoted as a cancer-fighter, this supplement is said to improve immunity by boosting the cancer-fighting activity of the body's natural killer cells. It is also claimed to fight heart disease and prevent kidney stones. It contains the compounds inositol and inositol hexaphosphate (the IP-6), which are extracted from rice bran.

IP-6 also goes by the name phytic acid and occurs naturally in all animal and plant cells. Cereal grains and legumes are especially rich sources of it. Though animal and laboratory studies show that IP-6 reduces the frequency of tumors or beneficially alters levels of chemicals in the blood that are indicative of cancer, there's no research in humans to indicate that IP-6 has the ability to fight cancer cells.

Moreover, even the product's promoters caution against taking it if you already take a blood thinner (preventing blood clotting is one of the ways IP-6 is said to fight heart disease) or if you're undergoing chemotherapy, which can also affect blood factors. IP-6 can also bind to several essential minerals and prevent or reduce their absorption.

Until we know more, your best bet is to eat the healthful foods already recommended, including brown rice, whole-grain cereals, and legumes.

Shark Cartilage

Despite promoters' claims that sharks don't get cancer and the supplement's widespread fame as a cancer fighter, there's actually little evidence that shark cartilage can beat cancer. In fact, the largest study done so far to test the effectiveness of shark cartilage found it did little for people suffering from advanced cancers of the breast, colon, lung, and prostate.

But there may still be some life in this supplement. Researchers have found a compound in shark cartilage that blocks the development of blood vessels. What does this have to do with fighting cancer? A lot. Tumors grow because the body develops new blood vessels to feed them. Shark cartilage contains a substance that, at least in laboratory studies, appears to block the development of these tumor-feeding blood vessels.

There's no proof that the same happens in people. But even if there were, scientists don't know if taking the supplements in pill form would produce the same effects (perhaps it would need to be injected) or if the supplements you find at the health food store actually contain enough pure shark cartilage to do the job.

In the final section of this article, learn about the various cholesterol-lowering supplements for seniors. Continue to the next page to read more.