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New Anti-Cancer Compounds Discovered in Apples

Wednesday, April 30, 2008 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: phytochemicals, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Any news item that links apples with good health always brings to mind the old adage "an apple a day keeps the doctor away". But new research is showing not only is that statement true, but apples might specifically keep a particular kind of doctor away – an oncologist.

Dr. Rui Hai Liu, Cornell associate professor of food science, has identified a dozen compounds dubbed triterpenoids in apple peel that either inhibit or kill cancer cells in the lab. Three of these triterpenoids have never been reported before, according to Dr. Liu, whose research was just published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. He describes them as having potent anti-proliferative activities against human liver, colon and breast cancer cells.

In earlier Cornell studies, apples were found to reduce the number and shrink the size of breast tumor cells in rats. Dr. Liu has also previously identified compounds called phytochemicals in apples and other foods that appear to have anti-cancer properties, including inhibiting human breast cancer cells tumor growth.

Dr. Liu's research team took the peels from 230 pounds of red delicious apples and analyzed the individual compounds they found. Then the researchers tested many of the pure compounds against cancer cell growth in the laboratory.

"We believe that a recommendation that consumers eat five to 12 servings of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables daily is appropriate to reduce the risks of chronic diseases, including cancer, and to meet nutrient requirements for optimum health," Dr. Liu stated.

In more research published in the International Journal of Cancer (March 19, 2008), scientists in the department of nutritional toxicology at Freidrich-Schiller University in Jena, Germany, offer evidence apples may help fight human colon cancer. The researchers investigated whether polyphenols found in apples had an impact on genes related to colon cancer. The result? Apple extracts appear to protect precancerous cells from toxicological insults – disrupting their transformation into cancer.

Apples have already been shown to be rich a soluble fiber, pectin, which successfully lowers cholesterol by targeting the "bad" stuff – LDL. Eating just two apples daily has caused cholesterol levels in test subject humans to plummet by up to 16 percent. Pectin has also received raves from researchers who found it helps diabetics regulate blood sugar, preventing a sudden spike or drop in blood sugar levels.

What's more, flavonoids, a type of pigment in apples that helps give their peels color, have been extensively researched and found to fight heart disease. For example, researchers in Finland studied over 5,000 Finish men and women for over 20 years. The results? The people who ate the most apples and other flavonoid-rich foods like tea and onion (such as onions and tea), had a 20% lower risk of heart disease than those who ate the least of these foods.

More good news for fruit lovers who can't always get the fresh variety: fruits retain their powerful health-promoting powers even when frozen, according to a new study just published in the Journal of Medicinal Food. Scientists from the Instituto de Biotecnologia at the University of Caxias do Sul in Brazil have identified antioxidant and antimutagenic activity in frozen fruits. Natural cancer-fighting substances including polyphenols, carotenoids, and ascorbic acid were found in significant levels in fruits, despite being frozen. These data, the researchers concluded, suggest that eating frozen fruits can contribute to the prevention of biological damages that may precede cancer and other diseases.

About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA’s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic’s "Men’s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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