Purple Potatoes Could Fight Colon Cancer
Baked purple potatoes have been found to contain substances that could help in the fight against colon cancer. A research team at Penn State, who recently published their findings in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, hope to do further research with purple potatoes and other forms of cancer.
More than 50,000 people in the United States alone die of colon cancer each year, making it the second leading cause of cancer-related death in America. Current colon cancer treatments include surgery, various chemotherapy drugs, and radiation. Colon cancer prevention suggestions include limiting or avoiding red meat and including more fiber in your diet, not smoking, and limiting or avoiding alcohol.
Purple potato study
The study was conducted under direction of Jairam K.P. Vanamala, associate professor of food sciences at Penn State and faculty member at the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute. He and his colleagues chose to use baked potatoes because that is the form in which potatoes are most often consumed around the world, and they wanted to be sure any cancer-fighting properties remained after the potatoes were cooked.
The researchers conducted two phases—one in petri dishes and one in mice. In the first phase, they found that adding extract of baked purple potatoes suppressed the spread of colon cancer stem cells and increased their destruction.
In the second phase, mice with colon cancer were given whole baked purple potato and the colon cancer cells responded in a similar way. According to the authors, to get the same results in humans would require eating one large or two medium size purple potatoes per day.
So far, however, tests in humans have not been conducted, although such studies are planned.
Why purple potatoes work for colon cancer
The scientists suggest that substances called anthocyanins, chlorogenic acid, and resistant starch may be working together on several levels to help kill colon cancer stem cells. Anthocyanins are red-blue pigments and highly active flavonoids with potent antioxidant properties, while chlorogenic acid is a natural chemical compound that also is an antioxidant.
Resistant starch, which is found in potatoes as well as green bananas, cashews, and various legumes, is nourishment for bacteria that live in the gut. These beneficial bacteria can use the starch to convert to short-chain fatty acids such as butyric acid, an agent that reduces chronic inflammation, modulates immune function, and may prompt cancer cells to die, according to Vanamala.
Vanamala also pointed out that animals given purple potatoes have been shown to be healthier than those who are treated with drugs. All of these findings suggest that certain foods such as purple potatoes could be used to help prevent cancer in two ways: to stop an initial attack and also assist patients in remission from suffering a relapse.
Related: Purple potatoes and blood pressure
Colorectal cancer, red meat and fiber
Charepalli V et al. Anthocyanin-containing purple-fleshed potatoes suppress colon tumorigenesis via elimination of colon cancer stem cells. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 2015 Aug 14; in press