Research news and views on preventing and surviving cancer
Author: Teresa Thanks to Teresa L. Johnson for Guest Blogging.
Teresa L. Johnson, MSPH, RDN, is a nutrition and health communications consultant with a long-time interest in the role of plant-based diets and cancer prevention. Her work draws on elements of nutritional biochemistry, phytochemistry, toxicology, and epidemiology.
A growing body of evidence indicates that the trillions of bacteria that live in the digestive tract – might play a role in altering cancer risk. Now, a study suggests that how those bacteria are organized and where they are located in the gut might influence the risk of certain colon cancers.
When bacteria organize into biofilms, they can breach the protective inner layer in the gut and invade the local tissue, promoting inflammation and possibly cancer.
We have an interesting relationship with the bacteria in our gut. Although many of the microbes provide beneficial services, bacteria – both “good” and “bad” – can cause us harm, so we keep them all at arm’s length, so to speak. Normal, healthy tissue in the colon is coated with a two-layered covering of mucus –a mesh-like outer layer and a gel-like inner layer. Whereas the outer layer creates a moist, cozy environment for bacteria, the inner layer is less hospitable: it provides the last line of defense against their invasion.
Purple sweet potatoes (yes, purple) are packed with flavor, fiber, and flavonoids—and are especially high in anthocyanins, the deeply pigmented flavonoid phytochemicals found in many blue, red, or purple fruits, vegetables, and grains such as berries, red grapes, red cabbages, and black rice.
Now, a new lab study suggests that these brilliant-colored tubers are actually cancer-fighting powerhouses that may play a role in protection from colorectal cancer.
The study, published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, examined the role of a specially bred anthocyanin-rich purple sweet potato (with the secret agent-like name “P40”) in colorectal cancer prevention.
The authors of the study conducted two experiments. First, they compared the cancer-fighting effects of three different sweet potato varieties—a cream-fleshed potato called “O’Henry,” a purple-skinned, white-fleshed potato called “NC Japanese,” and the brilliant purple-skinned and purple-fleshed P40—when added to the diets of mice. They injected the mice with a known carcinogen and placed the mice into groups to receive a diet enriched with O’ Henry, NC Japanese, P40, or regular mouse chow, which served as a control. Read more… “Lab Study: Purple Sweet Potatoes as Colon Cancer Fighters”
The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the US National Toxicology Program have identified more than 100 environmental substances that cause cancer, like cigarette smoke and air pollutants. Avoiding these carcinogens can be difficult so it’s important to take steps to reduce the risks that exposure carries.
A review published in last month’s issue of Topics in Current Chemistry looks at how a phytochemical found in broccoli helps protect us from these environmental carcinogens. The authors of the review are among the world’s leading experts in cancer, phytochemistry, and toxicology.
In a series of clinical trials conducted in China, they found that sulforaphane may protect us from airborne and foodborne toxins by switching on a cellular pathway that regulates cells’ abilities to protect themselves from environmental carcinogens.
Sulforaphane is the end product of a reaction between two chemicals produced in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables that protect the plant from insect attack. When an insect (or a human) bites into the plant, the two chemicals come together to form sulforaphane. It is what gives broccoli its somewhat pungent flavor. Read more… “Broccoli, Nerf, and Activating Antioxidants”
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