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An apple a day could keep cancer away

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Cornell University researchers, with support from the American Institute for Cancer Research, have been studying cancer fighting compounds in apples, finding that the popular fruit can help prevent and even aid in cancer treatment. Food scientist Rui Hai Liu has been researching the anti-cancer effect of apples, finding 13 compounds in the peel that either killed cancer cells or inhibited the growth in liver breast and colon cancer cells. Scientists also say apple compounds could be developed to help prevent resistance to chemotherapy drugs.

The cancer fighting compounds found in apples are triterpenoids. Dr. Liu has been studying fruits and their health benefits for over a decade. He says, “I’m interested in the health benefits of fruits and vegetables, and when you look at all the fruits and vegetables we saw the apple was rich in phenolic compounds with potent anti-proliferative properties – it was due to be studied.” Phenolics are phytochemicals that have a wide range of health benefits.

One study performed this year by Dr. Liu revealed that fresh apples and apple extract inhibited breast tumor growth in lab animals. Apples and apple extract decreased compounds in the animals that are cancer producing. Dr. Liu began studying apples for fighting cancer in 2000.

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Colon cancer was also found to respond to treatment with apple extract. The apple compounds protected DNA from damage and blocked carcinogens. Cells treated with apple extract showed less propensity to metastasize.

Beneficial compounds in apples could also find a place in chemotherapy. Cancer cells can become resistant to treatment with chemotherapy drugs. Researchers found that apples can block the action of a protein that makes cancer cells resistant to chemotherapy. The protein, kappa B (NF-KB), was blocked by apple extract and curcumin. Resveratrol was also studied, but did not produce the same results.

Dr. Liu suggests eating a wide array of fruits and vegetables, and not just apples. He says …"don’t just eat apples; variety is best. "The thousands of phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables can be looked at as a team."

Apples are known for their health benefits and are now found to have potential for fighting cancer and bolstering the effect of chemotherapy drugs. Fresh apples and apple extract contain beneficial triterpenoids that fight inflammation and can inhibit spread of cancer, reduce the chances of cancer metastasis, and even lead to cell death in liver breast and colon cancer.