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Berries: Sweet New Weapon in War on Cancer

Berries: Sweet New Weapon in War on Cancer
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By    |   Tuesday, 11 April 2017 02:45 PM

Berries, already known to be healthful, may also afford more cancer protection than previously believed, new research suggests.

Scientists at Ohio State University are launching new studies looking into the cancer-fighting potential of berries – including strawberries and black raspberries – focusing especially on their possible power to  fight oral cancers.

“Progress has been made in several cancers, like breast cancer, but this has not been true in oral cancers, such as esophageal cancer, which is incredibly tough to beat,” Elizabeth Grainger, Ph.D. tells Newsmax Health.

“These cancers also come with their own unique set of side effects which can be harsh, so anything we could do to beat them, such as extend the time between chemotherapy treatments, would be a home run,” adds Grainger, a clinical instructor and nutritional researcher in the Comprehensive Cancer Center at OSU.

It’s known that berries are packed with nutritional compounds including potassium, fiber, many B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, iodine, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and copper.

But they also contain chemicals that may make them particularly strong cancer-fighters: anthocyanins, flavonoids that give berries their dark color, and ellagitannins, the source of the polyphenol ellagic acid, researchers say.

Black raspberries and strawberries can inhibit cancer in animals by great amounts – 30 to 70 percent in esophageal cancer and colon cancer by up to 80 percent, but human studies have been mixed.

This may be because the anthocyanins and ellagic acid in berries are poorly absorbed in our blood, which has led scientists to focus on cancers that come directly in contact with them, such as cancers of the mouth, esophagus and colon, Grainger says.

Oral cancers develop on the tongue, the oral mucosa (tissue lining the mouth and gums), the floor of the mouth, the base of the tongue, and the oropharynx (area of the throat at the back of the mouth), the National Institutes of Health  says.

Oral cancers are the sixth most common cancers in the world. It is estimated that approximately 91,200 Americans are living with oral cancer, and current estimates suggest that approximately 37,000 new cases are diagnosed every year, the federal health agency adds.

The known risk factors for oral cancer are tobacco use and alcohol consumption. Recently, infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) has been linked to it, the NIH adds.

In a 2011 study in China, Tong Chen, a cancer researcher at OSU’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, conducted an experiment in which 36 volunteers were given a drink made with strawberry powder.

In many cases, esophageal cancer progresses from pre-cancerous growths that progress that can progress through various states on the way to becoming a malignancy.

Among these participants, 29 saw their lesions revert to a less dangerous state after six months of consuming the equivalent of two ounces of strawberries a day.

In a study presented this month, another OSU team developed a small candy with the nutritional equivalent of two-and-a-half cups of whole strawberries and gave it to a group of smokers and non-smokers.

Participants were asked to consume the strawberry confection or a placebo four times a day for one week and follow a diet absent of other red and purple fruits and vegetables.

The team then collected saliva and tissue samples from inside the mouth to measure levels and activities of salivary enzymes that metabolize strawberry phytochemicals (compounds believed to fight cancer) and how 44 genes associated with cigarette smoke and oral cancer risk, respectively, were expressed.

The result showed significant differences in the mouths of those smokers who ingested the strawberry confection compared to both those who ingested the placebo and in non-smokers as well, says Jennifer Ahn-Jarvis, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at OSU’s College of Dentistry.

This includes changes in the microbiome, or bacteria, as well as the expression of genes, both, which may play a role in cancer’s development, she says.

“We still need to study what these findings me in terms of cancer, but that there were differences is very exciting,” she says.

Researchers at OSU are also now recruiting 250 volunteers who smoke, but are otherwise healthy, to look whether black raspberries can help prevent cancer in smokers.

They will be divided into groups to study how the ingestion of a drink containing black raspberry compounds affects the bacterial compound of the mouth, says Grainger.

Although these findings are not yet in, everybody can benefit from eating more berries, says Vicki Shanta Retelny, registered dietician and author of “Total Body Diet for Dummies.”

“Berries are packed with benefits and very low in calories. Blueberries, for instance, carry a much deserved health halo as they are low-calorie with a mere 57 calories a cup, but contain many healthful nutrients,” she says.

Here are Retelny’s seven favorite ways to add berries to your diet:

  1. Make a smoothie with strawberries. Or use blueberries to make a smoothie that uses walnuts and apples.
  1. Toss berries into the chili you’re making to add fiber and nutrients.
  1. Fresh or frozen blueberries blend well in tomato sauce that you can use over pasta or top homemade pizza.
  1. Top peanut butter and toast with fresh blackberries.
  1. Eat a handful of blueberries or blackberries with nuts.
  1. Make a blueberry salad dressing by whisking the berries together with olive oil, champagne vinegar and dijon mustard.
  1. Puree a bit of fresh mint with fresh strawberries, add a drizzle of honey and swirl into cooked oatmeal. You can also add a bit of dark chocolate, cinnamon or vanilla to enhance the flavor.

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Berries, already known to be healthful, may also afford more cancer protection than previously believed, new research suggests.
berries, cancer, prevention, cooking, tips
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2017-45-11
Tuesday, 11 April 2017 02:45 PM
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