When I talk about strawberries and raspberries, memories of fruits salads, summer puddings and dollops of cream are fondly remembered from years past. Now fast forward 20 years and we now have ample clinical research to justify a second serving of these fruits without feeling guilty about our waistlines or any negative effects on health, even with added cream!
I class the berry fruits as strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blueberries and blackberries. These fruits contain vitamins, minerals and Phyto-nutrients which have profound effects on our metabolism. For this post I’ll be focusing on the phyto-nutrients only. All of these fruits contain anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory phyto-nutrients which have been shown to have strong anti-cancer effects. They fall into various categories:
A range of pigmented based compounds of various colours and are found in all the berry fruits. In fruits they are acting as ‘sunscreens’ protecting the fruit skins from high light damage. In terms of their anti-cancer effects, they are potent free radical scavengers, mopping up the superoxide and hydroxyl radicals1. They also up-regulate detoxification pathways in the body,decrease lipid peroxidation (oxidation of fats), reduce cell proliferation2-5 and chelate heavy metals.6 What a powerhouse of a molecule is that! And that’s not all, they induce cell death in cancer cells,7-8, there’s an increase in anti-inflammatory activity9,10, and they stop the formation of new blood vessels surrounding cancer cells11(called anti-angiogenesis). Epidemiological studies though need more investigations to demonstrate the true benefits in real cancer cases. Through blood analysis it has been identified that anthocyanins are poorly absorbed indicating that the benefits are probably more locally beneficial (eg. Skin, intestinal tract).
These are a group of metabolites produced by plants whose function is to provide pigmentation, UV filtration and regulate plant physiology. The most well known in healthy media circles include, quercetin, catechins and kaempferol. Quercetin has anti-cancer activity with its inhibition of cell proliferation12, and hastening of cancer cell death13 though the down-regulation of P53 gene (P53 is a gene which regulates cell cell and tumor suppression).It appears to have a better effect if taken intravenously as the absorption rate in animal models is not high enough to have anti-cancer activity.14 More research is needed to determine the bioavailability of quercetin at tissue levels14. The most famous food providing catechins is green tea which provides 4 types of catechins, of which EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) has been the most studied. Particularly in conjunction with conventional treatments EGCG has demonstrated apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells when combined with anti-inflammatory or chemotherapy drugs 15,16.EGCG also stimulates a protein inside the cell to make glutathione, the body’s most potent anti-oxidant.1718,which provides extra anti-oxidant protection against cancer.
This is phenolic compound produced by plants in response to injury, when the plant is under attack by fungi, bacteria or insects. It is most found in red grape skins, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.19,20, together with the ability to inhibit tumor invasion and angiogenesis. However, the bioavailability of the compound is low at cellular level because it is metabolised quickly and eliminated.21 To improve the efficacy of Resveratrol, a British professor (burke) created a product ‘Salvestrol’ which when metabolised in the cancer cell (CYP1B1 enzyme) created compounds which cause apoptosis in cancer cells. What is common in all cancer cells is the expression of the CYP1B1 enzyme, and the efficacy has been demonstrated on a variety of cancer case studies.22 It appears that it needs to be combined with a dietary supplementary and lifestyle change to potentiate its effect.
This compound is chemically similar to Resveratrol, and is found pre-dominantly in blueberries. It works synergistically with Resveratrol. This compound gets into the cells much better than Resveratrol having a bioavailability of up to 80% compared to Resveratrol at 20%23. In vitro studies show that Pterostilbene has anti-oxidant effects, and it inhibits cancer growth through, induction of cell apoptosis and inhibition of metastasis.24 In vivo studies in rats the compound shows inhibits tumor growth and metastasis24. It has also strong anti-inflammatory capabilities through inhibiting the cytokines (inflammatory chemicals) in the body, which helps limit the spread of cancer.25 All the in vitro studies are showing promising effects on cancer, however dosages used in vitro have been low, now we need further research to determine the optimal dosage for intake as a preventative and anti-tumor effect.
This is an natural antioxidant compound, found in strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. Ellagic acid has effects on inhibiting tumor growth and causing apoptosis on prostate cancer cells.26 This has been observed in other in vitro studies,27 however this is poorly absorbed within animals and is also rapidly metabolised by the body,28 therefore further research is needed to establish optimal dosage levels and effective transportation channels to the tissues within the body.
It appears mother nature has provided us with a variety of compounds produced by plants which have anti-cancer effects and with further research, we are likely to come across human trials demonstrating optimal intake amounts and delivery methods to effectively target cancer cells. In the meantime enjoy your summer puddings and berry delights with the safe knowledge that you are providing your body with some great preventative nutrients against cancer.