Cancer Prevention in Your Fruit Bowl

Cancer Prevention in Your Fruit Bowl

Healthnotes Newswire (June 23, 2005)—Eating red grapes, which are rich in flavonoids, may reduce the risk of developing cancer, according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (2005;53:2489–98).

Flavonoids are compounds found in a wide variety of plants, especially fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and are well-known for their antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are responsible for protecting cells against free radical (unstable molecule) damage that can lead to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and many other conditions. Studies show that eating a diet high in flavonoids reduces the risk of developing several types of cancer. However, this is one of the first studies to suggest that specifically red grapes may have this benefit.

In the new study, scientists performed test tube studies to determine whether seven different red grape extracts could inhibit a specific enzyme (topoisomerase II) responsible for accelerating cell division. Uncontrolled cell division causes cancer to proliferate, and studies show that the topoisomerase II levels in cancer cells is 25 to 300 times higher than that found in normal cells, which suggests this enzyme is partially responsible for the rapid growth of cancers. Decreasing this enzyme’s activity may help prevent cancer from developing.

All seven extracts were found to significantly inhibit topoisomerase II activity more than either quercetin or resveratrol, two well-known topoisomerase II inhibitors. As these two compounds are found in red grapes, some topoisomerase II inhibition might be expected; however, these findings suggest that the combinations of flavonoids are more potent inhibitors of topoisomerase II than each one individually.

While the new study’s findings are intriguing, it is not clear how often or in what quantities one should eat red grapes to get the cancer-protective effects. Moreover, the current study used a specific type of grape, so it is unknown whether different species of red grapes contain differing amounts of the various compounds that protect against cancer. Future human studies are necessary to determine the appropriate amounts for disease prevention, but in the meantime, eating red grapes is harmless (other than the possibility of loose stools from eating too many) and may offer some protection against cancer.

Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.

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