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Newly Researched Soy Component could be Nutritional Cancer Treatment

Tuesday, December 22, 2009 by: Michael Jolliffe
Tags: soy, cancer, health news

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(NewsTarget) A little-known soy protein known as lunasin could become a novel nutritional cancer treatment, according to research carried out at the University of Illinois. Studies revealed that lunasin, a peptide discovered accidentally by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley more than ten years ago, may fight cancers such as leukemia and may also dampen down the inflammation that contributes to heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

A team at U Of I headed by Dr Elvira de Mejia conducted new cancer-related trials on lunasin, which was demonstrated to block key enzymes that contribute to the development of cancer, with a dose-dependent effect against leukemia cells.

It was also found to block NFkB, one of the body's most important inflammatory factors, that has been linked not only to cancer, but also to diseases as far ranging as obesity and Alzheimer's disease. [1]

Writing in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, Dr de Mejia expressed her belief that the compound would have similar effects when consumed by humans and may become an important nutritional cancer treatment and preventative.

"We confirmed lunasin's bioavailability in the human body by doing a third study in which men consumed 50 grams of soy protein--one soy milk shake and a serving of soy chili daily--for five days. Significant levels of the peptide in the participants' blood give us confidence that lunasin-rich soy foods can be important in providing these health benefits."

"We can see that daily consumption of lunasin-rich soy protein may help to reduce chronic inflammation", she added.

Ironically, it is the protein digestion inhibitors in soy, much derided by soy opponents, that appear to allow lunasin to avoid digestion and become absorbed into the body.

Until recently lunasin, which has also been found in small quantities in barley and rye grains, had been discarded as a waste product at soy processing plants. It was discovered in 1999 by Dr. Ben O. de Lumen, Ph.D, a professor at the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology, University of California at Berkeley, California. Dr de Lumen and colleagues named the protein lunasin, which comes from the Tagalog word for "cure", and the compound soon lived up to its name after the Berkeley team was quickly able to establish a skin cancer-fighting effect in mice. [2]

Many researchers believe that the compound may also be responsible for soy's long-discussed cholesterol lowering properties. One of these researchers is Alfredo F. Galvez, Ph.D., a lead scientist at the Center of Excellence for Nutritional Genomics, University of California, Davis.

"The presence of the lunasin peptide in soy protein preparations provides a plausible mechanism of action to explain the cholesterol-lowering effect attributed to soy protein and paves the way for optimizing soy protein ingredients to maximize its heart-healthy benefits", wrote Dr Gonzalez in a not-yet-published abstract. [3]

Researchers in the Phillipines now plan to conduct clinical trials in the Philippines on lunasin as a nutritional cancer treatment for cervical tumours.

[1] Lunasin, with an arginine-glycine-aspartic acid motif, causes apoptosis to L1210 leukemia cells by activation of caspase-3 (p NA; Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia, Wenyi Wang, Vermont P. Dia; Published Online: Nov 24 2009 1:14AM; DOI: 10.1002/mnfr.200900073.
[2] "Chemopreventive property of a soybean peptide (lunasin) that binds to deacetylated histones and inhibits acetylation." Galvez AF, Chen, N, Macaseib J, de Lumen BO. Div. of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology, Uv. of California, Berkely, USA. Cancer Res. 2001 Oct 15;61(20):7473-8
[3] http://www.lunasin.com/Research/tabid/60/Def...

About the author

Michael Jolliffe is a freelance writer based in Oxford, UK.

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