Protecting Against Radiation from CAT Scans and X-rays

By Michael A. Smith, MD

While CAT scans provide important diagnostic information that can save lives, their increase in use is putting our enormous population at risk for a range of lethal cancers. Just how common are they? Odds are that everyone reading this post will have either an X-ray or a CAT scan within the next few years.

Fortunately, new research shows that a number of readily available antioxidant nutrients and herbs can offer protection against the dangers of ionizing radiation found in X-rays and CAT scans.

Polyphenols are Anti-Radiation Shields

Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables. Research has shown that they provide a number of key protective benefits, including protection from ionizing radiation. Collectively, polyphenols offer important protection from some of radiation’s impact on the body.1,2

Here are three of our favorite radio-protective polyphenols:

1. Resveratrol — In animal models, resveratrol was shown to protect DNA from radiation-induced damage.3 As an antioxidant, it prevents radiation damage to the liver and small intestines, two tissues that are most sensitive to radiation’s ill effects.4 We believe that resveratrol’s beneficial effects also extend to the brain.

2. Quercetin — Protects fats and proteins from harmful gamma radiation, again largely through its antioxidant properties.5 Quercetin and other polyphenols also shield DNA from radiation-induced damage.6

3. EGCG — This polyphenol is found in green tea and has been shown to block lipid oxidation and prolong life span.7 Green tea extracts can protect rapidly reproducing cells in the intestine and hair follicles from the damaging effects of radiation therapy, a form of radiation exposure far more intense than typical diagnostic CAT scans.8,9

Turmeric and Asian Spices Stop Radiation Damage

Curcumin is a polyphenol present in the spice turmeric. It has been used by Indians for over 3,000 years in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, and it has powerful anti-radiation properties.10 Curcumin reduces DNA damage and tumor formation in rats, and it also reduces both DNA damage and lipid oxidation in cultured human white blood cells.11,12

But there’s a problem with most commercially available curcumin — it doesn’t absorb very well. However, a patented form that absorbs up to seven times better than conventional curcumin is available. The patented formula is the most cost-effective way to supplement with this critical nutrient. Studies show that one 400 mg capsule a day of this turmeric compound can provide curcumin blood levels equal to ingesting 2,500–2,800 mg of commercial supplements.

Sulfur & Methyl Compounds Have Remarkable Anti-Radiation Properties

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a sulfur-containing compound that powerfully supports natural intracellular antioxidant systems, particularly glutathione. This makes it an effective “radio-protective” agent. It also has been shown to stop liver damage from radiation in mice, reducing oxidant damage and resultant DNA damage — both before and even after radiation exposure.13,14,15

Compounds that donate methyl groups are also helpful in protecting us from radiation. One such supplement is S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). Enzymes vital for DNA repair and cancer protection can’t function properly without methyl donors such as SAMe.16 It turns out that radiation actually suppresses SAMe levels in animal models. Increasing the animals’ SAMe levels, on the other hand, minimized DNA damage from ionized radiation.17

National Academy of Sciences: Any Amount of Radiation is Dangerous

The National Academy of Sciences says that there’s no radiation threshold below which exposure can be viewed as harmless. This finding means that everyone who has had a medical X-ray or CAT scan is at some increased risk for developing leukemia or a solid cancer. Scary, but true.

Considering how many X-rays people are exposed to in a lifetime, the risk of developing cancer from the cumulative effects of so many X-rays and CAT scans is a serious concern. For this reason, we strongly suggest the following when your doctor suggests an X-ray or CAT scan:

  1. Make sure your CAT scan or X-ray is absolutely necessary. In some cases, an MRI (which is not ionized radiation) or ultrasound can be performed instead.
  2. Begin taking our suggested nutrients as soon as you learn you’ll undergo the test.

Are you concerned about the dangers of radiation from X-rays or CAT scans? Please share your thoughts below in the comments!


  1. Cancer Biol Ther. 2003 Nov-Dec;2(6):642-15.
  2. Cancer Gene Ther. 2008 Mar;15(3):133-9.
  3. Radiat Res. 2008 Jun;169(6):633-8.
  4. Free Radic Res. 2009 Aug 25:1-12.
  5. Z Naturforsch C. 2005 Sep-Oct;60(9-10):728-38.
  6. Environ Mol Mutagen. 2006 Dec;47(9):647-56.
  7. Life Sci. 1992;50(2):147-52.
  8. In Vivo. 2003 Mar-Apr;17(2):211-4.
  9. Phytother Res. 2008 Oct;22(10):1380-3.
  10. J Ethnopharmacol. 1999 Jan;64(1):1-7.
  11. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2002 Jul 1;53(3):735-43.
  12. Mutat Res. 2006 Dec 10;611(1-2):96-103.
  13. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 1993;119(6):346-9.
  14. Eur J Pharmacol. 2007 Dec 1;575(1-3):142-8.
  15. Acta Med Okayama. 2008 Dec;62(6):403-9.
  16. Mol Cell Biochem. 2007 Jan;294(1-2):181-7.
  17. Chem Biol Interact. 2010 Feb 12;183(3):425-33.


Anonymous said...

i like beta 1,3D glucan (97%)from yeast cell walls for anti radiation effects. and if followed by dose of vitamin C, then immune stimulation happens (that is, if not have high blood sugar, eating too much sugars, glycemic starches). Next favorite is Coriolus mushroom extracts.

as for resveratrol, it does not last but very few minutes in the body, and its metabolite can cause melanoma to metastasis.

if have melanoma, then take some specific melanoma anti-metastasis stuff like coenzyme Q10 and/or drug propranolol (like 40mg twice daily) preferably both.


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Anonymous said...

Do you have any suggestions for protecting/repairing DNA AFTER an abdominal/pelvis CT scan? I stupidly did not research CT scans well enough before I had one (4 days ago), and now I am petrified that I will get cancer either in the short term or after a "few decades" as I have recently read about. I have also had a prior abdominal/pelvis scan (2008) during an ER/hospital stay, which means I have cumulative ionizing radiation from 2 abdominal/pelvis CT scans, which seems to be harder to find information on. I also saw one internet writeup indicating that slower metabolism may be best for not spreading/replicating the defective DNA resulting from a CT scan. Do you have any insight into this perspective on metabolic rate related to spread of damaged DNA in the body?

Life Extension said...

Anonymous- Ginkgo seems to protect DNA after radiation exposure. As a matter of fact, it was used to treat Chernobyl nuclear plant workers after they were exposed to massive amounts of radiation. To read more about this and other nutrients, we suggest visiting this link:

Keep in mind that our DNA is under constant attack, whether it be from radiation or other mutagenic sources. Compounds called xanthophylls are especially protective in this respect, and you can read more about them here:

Hope this helps!

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