Sea Cucumbers: Possible Cancer Fighters?

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This beautiful picture of a translucent sea cucumber — released last week by the Census of Marine Life and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution – reminded me of some interesting research presented at AICR’s conference.

SeaCucThe lab research, presented in a poster session, found that a compound in sea cucumber decreased the growth of breast cancer tumors in mice and decreased cancer growth in cells. Previous lab studies have found that this same sea cucumber compound  — called Frondoside A – inhibited the growth of human pancreatic cancer cells.

The research is still only in the laboratory phase but if you want to try a new seafood, look for dried sea cucumbers in Asian markets.  (Sea cucumber are a common delicacy in many Asian dishes.)

Sea cucumbers are pretty fascinating. They are generally cucumber-shaped and there’s over 1,000 different species of them. To escape predators, sea cucumbers can jettison some of their internal organs, and then grow them back again.

You can see more newly-identified deep-sea organisms here.

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    Those Cancer-Fighting Apples

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    Chances are, you have some leftover apples from Thursday’s feast – whether they’re whole or in pie form. We all know apples are healthy, but recent cancer research will make you feel even better about biting into America’s second favorite fruit.

    Apple with cinnamon
    A study published this week in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention found that eating at least one apple a day significantly lowered the risk of colorectal cancer. The study participants ate relatively low amounts of fruits and vegetable, with apples the most frequent fruit consumed. Eating more than one apple a day reduced the risk by about 50 percent.

    This week’s Cancer Research Update looks at the lab work of a Cornell University food scientist who has spent almost a decade exploring how apples may prevent cancer development.

    Did you know there are so many apple varieties, you could eat a different type every day for 19 years without repeating, if you traveled the world that is. You can see how the most popular varieties compare to one another in Apples: A Healthy Temptation.

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      Corn DNA: Eat it Up

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      There’s a lot of corn news this week, some of it related to Thanksgiving but mainly because researchers have just decoded the DNA of corn. Apparently, corn has a pretty complex genome and it’s giving scientists a lot of new information.

      Credit: Iowa State
      Credit: Iowa State

      The basics: Corn has 32,000 genes packed into 10 chromosomes (humans have 20,000 genes spread among 23 chromosomes). About 85 percent of the corn DNA has these segments that are repeated; that compares to only about 45 percent of human’s DNA. Reports also said there’s a surprisingly huge difference between two corn varieties, (as much as the genetic difference between humans and chimpanzees!).

      Now that researchers know corn’s DNA sequence, they hope it will help develop better types of corn for consumers around the world.

      Corn has received a lot of bad press lately, with stories about high fructose corn syrup and the bulging calorie count of movie popcorn. But plain, simple sweet corn carries a lot of health benefits. It’s a good source of dietary fiber, and vitamins B and C.  Blue corn has more protein and it also contains anthocyanins, phytochemicals well studied for cancer prevention.

      In some shape or form, you’ll likely be eating corn tomorrow (and everyday). For tasty and healthy corn recipes, visit Recipes from the AICR Test Kitchen.
      You can read more about the corn’s genome in the journals Science and PLoS Genetics.

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