A compound found in blueberries shows promise of preventing colon cancer, according to a new study. Scientists at Rutgers University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted a joint study on animals, and found that the compound -- called pterostilbene -- lessened pre-cancerous lesions and inhibited genes involved in inflammation. Researchers presented the study at the American Chemical Society's annual meeting in March.
"This study underscores the need to include more berries in the diet, especially blueberries," said study leader Bandaru Reddy, Ph.D., a professor in the chemical biology department at Rutgers. Although the blueberry compound won't cure colon cancer, it represents a strategy for preventing the disease naturally, said Reddy, who specializes in studying the relationship between nutrition and colon cancer.
The researchers studied 18 rats in which colon cancer had been induced in a manner similar to human colon cancer development. All of the animals were placed on a balanced diet, with half of the animals' diets supplemented with pterostilbene. After eight weeks, the rats fed pterostilbene had 57 percent fewer pre-cancerous colon lesions compared to the control group. The researchers also noted that pterostilbene inhibited certain genes involved in inflammation, considered a colon cancer risk factor.
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. It has been linked to a high intake of saturated fats and calories common in Western diets. Pterostilbene may be able to reverse this process, possibly by lowering lipids, Reddy said.
Reddy cited a recent study by co-author Agnes Rimando of the Department of Agriculture. Rimando demonstrated that blueberries
, particularly their skins, can lower cholesterol when fed to animals.
Some thirty different species of blueberries are native to North America. The berries are rich in anthocyanins, widely recognized for their antioxidant qualities. Blueberries are also a good source of ellagic acid, which blocks metabolic pathways that can lead to cancer
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