The Genes in Your Coffee (and Cancer-Protective Compounds)

Quick: what do tea, chocolate and coffee all have in common? There’s actually a lot they share – including many cancer-protective compounds – but for all who answered caffeine, that’s the big one.CoffeeBeansCup_dreamstime_13158097_blog

Now a research team has sequenced a draft of the genome of the coffee plant, finding that the caffeine compound has probably evolved independently of tea or chocolate. The researchers sequenced the plant Coffea canephora, which reportedly accounts for almost a third of the world’s coffee production.

The study was published on Friday in Science.

In all, the scientists identified about 25,000 protein-producing genes in the plant. (Humans have approximately 21,000 genes.) When they compared the coffee genome to the DNA of tea and chocolate they found coffee’s caffeine enzymes are more closely related to other genes within the coffee plant than to caffeine enzymes in tea and chocolate.

Compared to the grape and tomato, the coffee plant contains larger families of genes that relate to the production of flavonoid and other compounds, which contribute to the smell of coffee and are studied for their health benefits. Continue reading


Is eating organic food better for reducing my cancer risk?

Is eating organic food better for reducing my cancer risk?

It’s one of the most asked questions we get – especially now, with a new review of the research suggesting that organics contain more antioxidants than conventional foods.canstockphoto20873615

With all the research on fruits, vegetables and other plant foods and cancer, AICR hasn’t had a lot to say about organics. There has been relatively little research on organics and cancer risk, with no clear conclusions except one: eating a diet that is mainly from plants – whether they are organic or conventional – reduces the risk of cancer.

The new analysis, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, included 343 studies from 1992 to 2012. (1992 was when the European Union started regulating organic farming; about 70% of the studies were from Europe.)

The authors looked at how organics and conventional plant foods compared in vitamins, minerals and groups of phytochemicals that have shown antioxidant — and cancer-protective — activity in lab studies. The researchers also compared levels of pesticide compounds.

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Dietary Antioxidants May Lower Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Eating mushrooms, oranges, brazil nuts and other foods packed with vitamins C, E, and/or selenium may reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly types of cancer, according to a new study published today in the journal Gut.

Pancreatic cancer has been in the news lately with the death of Sally Ride, the first US woman astronaut. Ride is one of the estimated 37,000 Americans who will die of pancreatic cancer this year.  According to the National Cancer Institute, pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death. It is often not diagnosed until the advanced stages, when treatment is challenging.

In the study, researchers drew upon data of almost 24,000 participants who were part of the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC) study. Participants filled out a seven-day food diary when they entered the study in the mid-1990s. They also gave a blood sample that was analyzed for vitamin C levels.

Current research is limited and conflicting on whether diet affects pancreatic cancer risk. Study researchers here looked specifically at some of the more well studied dietary antioxidants: vitamins C, E, selenium and zinc. They determined how much of each antioxidant the participants ate then divided the participants into four groups, from the lowest to highest. Continue reading