Research news and views on preventing and surviving cancer
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.
Today is Eat a Cranberry Day—a great reason to drink a glass of cranberry juice.
The compounds responsible for cranberries’ brilliant color, proanthocyanidins, are well studied in cancer prevention and were long suspected to provide protection against urinary tract infections (UTIs). Not only are UTIs painful, but the inflammation associated with chronic UTIs increases the risk of one form of bladder cancer.
But new research suggests that the whole juice is more effective at providing protection against UTIs than a single group of compounds. The study was published in the journal Food Science and Biotechnology.
Proanthocyanidins target the small, hair like structures that bacteria use to attach to surfaces, such as the cells lining the urinary tract. When enough bacteria accumulate, they can form a biofilm—a slimy community of fellow microbes where they grow and thrive.
As the days have shortened and the nights have grown crisp, the leaves on the trees outside AICR’s Washington, DC, headquarters have begun to show their true colors. Some of these colors are derived from lycopene, a dietary compound that plays a role in preventing cancer.
Lycopene is one of the more well-studied compounds for cancer prevention. It belongs to a class of compounds known as carotenoids and is one of the compounds responsible for leaves’ brilliant reds, oranges, and yellow hues. These fat-soluble pigments are present in many foods, as well, and are what make tomatoes red, pumpkins orange, and squashes yellow.
AICR’s expert report and its continuous updates have found that lycopene reduces the risk of prostate cancer. Along with tomatoes and tomato products, lycopene is also found in other red fruits such as watermelon and red guavas. Interestingly, our bodies can absorb more lycopene from cooked tomato products like spaghetti sauce, ketchup, or salsa because heat changes the configuration of lycopene’s molecules, making it more available.