The tradition parental saying, “Eat your fruits and veggies!” has received some scientific backing, with a study demonstrating how diets full of raw vegetables, particularly broccoli sprouts, and black raspberries could prevent or slow the growth of some common forms of cancer.
Presenting their findings on cancer prevention at the American Association for Cancer Research’s Sixth Annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, researchers from the Ohio State University suggest that black raspberries may protect against esophageal cancer.<b1>
The propose that the fruit may thwart the disease by reducing oxidative stress in patients with Barrett’s esophagus (BE), a pre-cancerous condition that usually arises due to gastroesophageal reflux disease.
According to the researchers, BE patients have a 30- to 40-fold increased risk of developing esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC), a deadly cancer with a 15 per cent five-year survival rate. Moreover, a number of treatment options are available to BE patients for symptom relief, researchers say, but none has proven curative or eliminated the risk of cancer progression.
“In addition to gastroesophageal reflux disease, increasing body mass index or body fatness is strongly associated with EAC development; whereas, plant-based diets and particularly increased fruit consumption has been associated with decreased risk for EAC,” said Laura A. Kresty, Ph.D., assistant professor of at Ohio State University.
According to Kresty, research using animal models of BE showed that black raspberries inhibited chemically induced oral, esophageal and colon cancers.
The studies showed that berries reduced measures of oxidative stress (the destruction done to cells by oxygen ions or small reactive molecules containing oxygen), decreased DNA damage, inhibited cellular proliferation rates, and reduced the number of pre-cancerous cells in the esophagus and colon.
“We can give black raspberries before we have any initiated cells, or we can administer after we already know we have initiated cells. What’s promising about the berries is that they work in both cases, and in multiple models. There aren’t nearly as many agents that work in the latter scenario,” Kresty said.
In this study, BE patients ate 32 or 45 grams (female and male, respectively) of freeze-dried black raspberries daily for 26 weeks. After 26 weeks, patients experienced a statistically significantly decline in the mean urinary levels of 8-Isoprostane, an indicator of global oxidative stress and DNA damage -- both processes linked to the development of BE and EAC.
According to Kresty, 58 per cent of patients experienced marked individual level declines of 8-Isoprostane. Among 37 percent of BE patients, the black raspberry regimen also resulted in the increased expression of tissue levels of GSTpi. GSTpi is an enzyme that detoxifies carcinogens and reactive oxidants and is typically reduced in Barrett’s epithelium compared to normal esophageal epithelium.
“Black raspberries have a good profile in terms of tolerability -- many of the potential toxic side effects associated with a new drug are less of an issue because we are simply administering a food in a non-traditional manner,” Kresty said.
“Patients seem amenable to such an approach, they understand it and enjoy being able take positive action for potential health gains,” she added.