Apple Peels, Red Grapes, Turmeric Help Prevent Growth of Prostate Cancer in Mice

A study identified a combination of nutrients from foods that are more effective against prostate cancer than existing drugs if they're ingested in concentrations that exceed those found in a healthy diet.

Aug. 17, 2017
By Mary West

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Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin iden­ti­fied apple peels, red grapes and turmeric as nat­ural agents con­tain­ing com­pounds that may help pre­vent the growth of prostate can­cer. Their com­bined effect proved greater than their sep­a­rate effects.

These nutri­ents have poten­tial anti-can­cer prop­er­ties and are read­ily avail­able.- Stefano Tiziani, University of Texas at Austin

Prostate can­cer, the most com­mon malig­nancy afflict­ing men, devel­ops slowly and often with­out any symp­toms in the early stages. According to the American Cancer Society, 161,360 men in the U.S. will be diag­nosed with the dis­ease this year, which will result in 26,730 fatal­i­ties.

The study pub­lished in Precision Oncology used a novel tech­nique to iden­tify plant-based com­pounds that can fight prostate can­cer. Instead of test­ing a sin­gle agent at a time like most stud­ies, it screened numer­ous agents to ascer­tain what com­bi­na­tions would be most effec­tive.

After screen­ing a nat­ural com­pound library, we devel­oped an unbi­ased look at com­bi­na­tions of nutri­ents that have a bet­ter effect on prostate can­cer than exist­ing drugs,” said cor­re­spond­ing author Stefano Tiziani, assis­tant pro­fes­sor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Dell Pediatric Research Institute at UT Austin. The beauty of this study is that we were able to inhibit tumor growth in mice with­out tox­i­c­ity.”

In recent years, some can­cer research has indi­cated that com­pounds in green tea, turmeric and apple peel can reduce inflam­ma­tion, which is one of the risk fac­tors for can­cer. People with a dis­or­der that causes chronic inflam­ma­tion, such as obe­sity, autoim­mune dis­ease or a long-stand­ing infec­tion, have an ele­vated can­cer risk due to the dam­age the con­di­tion per­pe­trates on nor­mal cells.


The new study was con­ducted in two phases: First, 142 nat­ural com­pounds were tested on mice and human prostate can­cer cells in test tubes to deter­mine which ones inhib­ited the malignancy’s growth. The agents were tested both singly as well as in com­bi­na­tion with oth­ers.

Next, the most promis­ing ones were tested on mice with prostate can­cer. These included rose­mary; resver­a­trol, a com­pound found in red grapes; cur­cumin, the part of the spice turmeric that imparts the yel­low color; and urso­lic acid, a com­pound found in apple peels.

These nutri­ents have poten­tial anti-can­cer prop­er­ties and are read­ily avail­able,” said Tiziani. We only need to increase con­cen­tra­tion beyond lev­els found in a healthy diet for an effect on prostate can­cer cells.”

How do these three foods work together? When the urso­lic acid in the apple peel com­bines with either resver­a­trol or cur­cumin, it pre­vents can­cer cells from con­sum­ing a nutri­ent they need to grow – glu­t­a­mine. This strat­egy of block­ing the uptake of glu­t­a­mine with nutri­ents that are read­ily avail­able in the diet is most ben­e­fi­cial, as it involves no side effects.

The research shows the role of diet in fight­ing can­cer. People tend to feel that their risk of devel­op­ing can­cer is deter­mined mostly by genet­ics; how­ever, diet is crit­i­cal because it dic­tates gene expres­sion. Ajay Goel of the Baylor Scott and White Research Institute and Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center explained the idea to Olive Oil Times.

This is a fas­ci­nat­ing study that builds upon the con­cept that we are what we eat,’ since our diets have a pro­found influ­ence on who and what we are. We have no con­trol on our genet­ics, our DNA; but we have com­plete con­trol on every sin­gle thing we put in our mouth on a daily basis,” Goel said.

As shown in this study, active prin­ci­ples in apples, grapes and turmeric have potent anti-can­cer activ­ity for prostate can­cer; but more impor­tantly, there is a huge degree of syn­er­gism between these com­pounds. It demon­strates that although indi­vid­ual food com­po­nents may be very potent, they work best when ingested together. This shows the value of eat­ing a well-bal­anced and healthy diet, espe­cially one that includes many fruits, veg­eta­bles, herbs etc.

Such changes are rel­a­tively easy to incor­po­rate into our daily life and can alter how we look at the dis­ease process. A nutri­tious diet can help pre­vent ill­ness, delay its onset or even pro­duce ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fits,: he added.

At the end of the day, it is not our genet­ics that dic­tates the dis­ease bur­den; but it is our epi­ge­net­ics that con­trols gene expres­sion, which is directly con­trolled by dietary and lifestyle fac­tors.”

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