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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