Many are aware that cranberries have a beneficial effect on urinary tract infections but it’s other health benefits aren’t so well known. In a recent study, mice with colon cancer were fed cranberry extract and a significant decrease in the size and numbers of tumors was observed. Scientists now are seeking to identify that compound inside of cranberries that are responsible for these anticancer effects.
Colon caner is prevalent in America with one in 20 people falling victim to it at some point in their lives. Modern advances in technology have made early detection and treatment more common, yet colon cancer remains one of the largest causes of cancer-related death in the U.S.
Researchers believe that colon cancer is especially vulnerable to dietary treatments. This is because the active ingredients in cranberries can be delivered to the colon quite easily through the process of natural digestion. Past research has shown that extracts from cranberry is a potent antidote to colon cancer by killing off colon tumor cells in petri dishes.
Which biological compounds are active in cranberry is a question with several leads. To test out these suspected active ingredients, mice with similar inflammatory bowel conditions to thousands of people in the U.S., were used in laboratory tests.
The study utilized three types of powdered cranberry extract. The first was a whole fruit powder, the second contained only cranberry polyphenols, and the last contained only the non-polyphenol ingredients that make up cranberries. The idea was to see if the polyphenols had anti-inflammatory effects as suspected from previous research, and additionally, to see what the effect of the whole fruit was in general.
The cranberry extracts were mixed with the food of the colon-cancer afflicted mice, who seemed not to mind the tart flavor. Over the period of 20 weeks results showed that the mice eating the whole cranberry extract had half the number of tumors of mice that received no cranberry in their diets. The tumors that remained were also smaller for the whole cranberry fed mice, while other inflammatory effects decreased. All three extracts were effective, but the whole cranberry extract was most effective. This lead scientists to speculate that some activity between polyphenol and non-polyphenol components of cranberries must be key in the anti-cancer effects.
The study made sure not give mice extreme doses of cranberry. The human equivalent would be about a cup a day, including the skins.
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