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Lycopene, Zinc, Pumpkin Seeds, Prostatol, Prostate Care, etc.

As manufacturers and vendors of nutritional products are quick to point out, benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) or enlargement is common in men over 50, and prostate cancer is one of the commonest cancers. Addressing this market and making use of traditional herbal knowledge as well as research into herbal phytochemicals, vitamin and supplement manufacturers have come up with a range of products designed to promote prostate health. Though the ingredients may have been subject to various scientific studies, no clinical trials have been conducted into the relative efficacy of these products, and it is not thought that they can fight existing cancers on their own. They are of more use in the general maintenance of prostate health.

The many ingredients used in the various products include tomato extract (contains the antioxidant and anti-cancer agent, lycopene); licorice extract (anti-inflammatory); cranberries (protect against urinary tract infections, with a number of other benefits); pumpkin seeds (contain anti-inflammatory sterols; also a diuretic, helping urinary flow; also high in zinc, present naturally at high levels in the prostate); the essential amino acids, glutamic acid, alanine and glycine (reduce the symptoms of BPH); zinc gluconate (reduces symptoms of BPH); selenium (a powerful antioxidant, with anti-cancer properties); pygeum (maintains healthy cholesterol levels, elevated cholesterol levels being associated with BPH); saw palmetto (relieves the symptoms of BPH, when combined with pygeum); nettle (promotes prostate health); marshmallow (promotes urinary flow and has soothing properties); and other herbs. Internet searches on the above will yield many results. Only a few such links are given below.

Among the many proprietary supplements being marketed are Prostatol, Prostate Care, Prost 8 Palmetto, Dim Palmeto Prostate, Prosta-Vita, and others. There seems to be no data that enables a person to determine which are the most effective.

It is worth noting that epidemiological (population) studies on those who consume significantly larger quantities of tomatoes and tomato-based products have a lower risk of prostate cancer. Moreover, because of the heat applied during the manufacturing process, the lycopene in concentrated tomato products is more readily absorbed by the body than from fresh tomatoes. Tomato paste (23.3 mgms/100gms) and tomato ketchup (17 mgms/100gms) are the best sources, and have a far higher lycopene content than fresh tomatoes (3 mgms/100gms). Lycopene is a fat soluble carotenoid, and there is evidence that tomatoes taken in association with oil are absorbed far better into the body. Studies on rats have indicated that lycopene appears to act in synergy with other compounds in tomatoes. This implies that supplements containing lycopene alone may not be as effective as whole tomato products.

Science Daily – “Lycopene's Anti-cancer Effect Linked to Other Tomato Components.” A readable report (2003) of the various studies.

Journal of the National Institute of Cancer – The scientific study suggesting that whole tomatoes are far better than lycopene alone in preventing prostate cancer.

The Cancer Project – How lycopene protects against cancer.

"Lycopene" - Wikipedia – An assessment of the research.

"Lycopene" - American Cancer Society – An assessment of the research.

The World's Healthiest Foods – On the health benefits of cranberries.

Cornell University – “Selenium supplements can reduce cancer rates.”

Innate Response – Manufacturer of Prostate Response.

Santa Monica Homeopathic Pharmacy – A US vendor of Prostatol, Prost 8 Palmetto, Dim Palmeto Prostate, Prosta-Vita, and other prostate formulae.

Vitacost – A US vendor of high concentration Natrol lycopene from tomato extract.


Zinc is a naturally occurring element, involved in a number of bodily biochemical functions. It is found in legumes, brewer's yeast, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, dairy products and whole grains, as well as meat, fish, and poultry. In the cancer scenario, it functions as an immuno-stimulant and an antioxidant, helping to mop up the free radicals that can lead to cancer. Zinc deficiency has also been linked to an increased risk of esophageal squamous cell cancer. Zinc is found in high concentrations in the prostate gland, and is present in prostate secretions, where it assists sperm motility. Zinc is also involved in bone formation, and the regulation of neural synaptic signaling. It is present in over 300 enzymes.

Zinc supplementation usually comes in the form of zinc gluconate, zinc sulphate, or zinc acetate. It is involved in the acuity of the sense of smell and taste, and is used to help treat the loss of taste resulting from head and neck radiation therapy, and the disturbances to taste caused by chemotherapy, although the results of studies concerning taste are mixed. Zinc is also an ingredient of supplements designed to help reduce the symptoms of benign prostate enlargement, common in men over 50.

The recommended daily allowance is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. Zinc supplements, including multivitamins, normally contain 15 mg, to be taken once a day. Zinc elevates the levels of blood testosterone, and studies have shown that consumption of more than 100 mg/day increases the risk of prostate cancer. A dose of 100 mg or more per day can also lead to copper deficiency, nausea, headache, fatigue, diarrhoea and taste disturbances. Because minerals can compete with each other in the body, a zinc supplement should be taken 2 hours before or after foods high in phosphorus, calcium, bran fibre, or phytate. Zinc can also reduce the bioavailablity of fluoroquinolone or tetracycline drugs, and zinc supplementation should be taken 2 hours before or 4 hours after these medications.

Zinc is also used to treat diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and macular degeneration of the retina, and to shorten the duration and relieve the symptoms of the common cold (if caught within a day or two, it is believed to inhibit the proliferation ability of the rhinovirus responsible for a cold).

UC Berkeley Wellness Letter – A useful and readable overview.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center – A useful overview.

Linus Pauling Institute – A detailed overview.

Agricultural Research Service – Zinc and prostate cancer.

National Cancer Institute – “Zinc Deficiency Linked to Increased Risk of Less-Common Form of Esophageal Cancer.” Zinc deficiency and squamous cell esophageal cancer.


Selenium is a trace element required for good health. It is incorporated into proteins, forming selenoproteins – significant antioxidants that help prevent the cell damage caused by free radicals, which can lead to cancer. Other selenoproteins are also thought to inhibit tumour growth by enhancing immune cell activity and by suppressing the development of blood vessels to the tumour. Selenoproteins also help to regulate the thyroid.

The soil content of selenium varies considerably throughout the world, and epidemiological studies have linked selenium deficiency to a higher risk of various forms of cancer, AIDS, heart disease, arthritis, and a number of other ailments. Conversely, high levels of selenium in the blood, have been shown to decrease the risk of esophageal, lung, prostate, bladder, colorectal, and other forms of cancer. There is also some indication that selenium is a more effective cancer preventative agent when in association with vitamin E.

The selenium content of foods varies according its concentration in the soil. The best sources are brazil nuts, whole wheat, whole rice, dairy products, egg yolks, and some meat and fish. Of these, brazil nuts have by far the highest concentration, so long as they are grown in selenium-rich areas. Such brazil nuts can contain more than 500 micrograms per 30 grams, more than 20 times as much as most other selenium-bearing foods. The recommended daily allowance of selenium for an adult is 55 micrograms, a quantity present in less than one selenium-rich brazil nut. However, cancer prevention studies have shown that a daily supplement of 200 micrograms (derived from selenium-rich yeasts) decreases the risk of prostate, lung and colorectal cancer. That's about four selenium-rich brazil nuts a day. Some experts suggest that a cancer-preventative dose of up to 400 micrograms daily is an acceptable dose.

High levels of selenium are toxic. However, its toxicity also depends on its chemical form. While selenious acid, for example, is usually fatal, and selenium sulphide has been reported as an animal carcinogen, there is no indication that any other selenium compounds are carcinogenic. Some selenium compounds are more easily utilized by the body than others. In general, the bioavailability of organically bound compounds is greater than inorganic forms. There is also some indication that one of the most active anti-cancer forms is Se-methylselenocysteine (Se-MSC), found naturally in vegetables such as garlic and broccoli. In animal studies, Se-MSC has been shown to induce the apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells, significantly inhibit the formation of new tumours, and reduce VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor), thus inhibiting the growth of a blood supply to tumours.

MSNBC – A simple overview from a supplements' vendor.

Linus Pauling Institute – A good overview.

Office of Dietary Supplements – An in-depth overview, with references to scientific studies.

Life Extension Foundation – A good overview, including some positive observations concerning Se-methyselenocysteine.

Worldwide Health Center – “Methylselenocysteine: The Super Selenium.” An in-depth article on a vendor's site, with references to scientific studies.

Iron Overload & Cancer

Research has shown that high levels of iron in the blood relates to a higher risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer's disease. Iron is essential for a healthy body. It is present in many bodily proteins such as haemoglobin (in the blood) and myoglobin (in muscles). However, too much iron catalyzes the formation of free radicals, which can damage DNA and lead to cancer and other health problems. Iron is also required for cell division, so high a iron level will enhance tumour growth.

Once absorbed through the gut, iron is stored in the body, which has no physiological means of regulating its iron level. Traces of iron are lost by the shedding of cells from the skin and the intestinal tract, while larger amounts are lost in normal pregnancy, and through blood loss, as in menstruation. Consequently, for men and post-menopausal women, a diet high in iron (as in red meat) can lead to iron overload.

For most people, sufficient dietary iron is usually present in fruits, vegetables, pulses and grains, and iron supplementation is not required. The addition of iron to food by manufacturers also seems an unwise strategy. According to the FDA, 45 mg of iron per day is generally regarded as a safe limit. However, while pre-menopausal women may suffer from anaemia, for men and post-menopausal women, some authorities recommend no more than 9 mg per day in any multivitamin supplement. Iron levels can be monitored by checking the blood level of serum ferritin. The most effective way of dealing with iron overload is blood donation.

Your Health – A brief summary.

MenWeb – An excellent general overview.

Norris Cotton Cancer Center– A good overview, from a more scientific viewpoint.

Good Medicine – “Iron: The Double-Edged Sword.” An interview with Dr Randall Lauffer, author of Iron Balance.

Nutra Ingredients – “Iron, calcium linked to lung cancer.” A news report of a Harvard epidemiological study.

Medical News Today – “Consumption of High Levels of Dietary Iron Linked to Increased Cancer Risk for Patients Predisposed to Iron Overload.” A news report of research by the Medical University of South Carolina.


Quercetin belongs to a group of plant substances known as flavonoids. More specifically, it is a phytooestrogen, similar in structure to the female hormone, oestrogen. Quercetin is ubiquitous in nature: sources include soya beans, red onions, apples, red grapes, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, buckwheat, black and green tea, brassicas, herbs such as ginko biloba and St John's wort, and many other fruits and vegetables. It has anti-inflammatory, antihistamine and antioxidant properties, and has been promoted as a nutritional supplement that is effective against a number of ailments, including allergies, asthma, prostatitis (swelling of the prostate), the neurological complications of diabetes, and cancer. It is also said to help stabilize small blood vessels, and thus protect against heart attacks and strokes.

Some early laboratory cell culture and animal studies have been promising, but whether quercetin can be used as a preventative or treatment for cancer (or any other disease) is as yet unproven. Cell culture studies have shown it to induce apoptosis (cell death) in colon, ovarian, prostate, breast and lung cancer cell lines, as well as leukemia. Similarly, in cell cultures, quercetin has been shown to inhibit the proliferation of human oral cancer cells. Some animal studies have also demonstrated its effectiveness against colon cancer. Human studies have been largely epidemiological (statistical population studies), and have focused on dietary flavonoids, rather than quercetin in particular. These studies have indicated that flavonoids give some protection against lung, breast, and other cancers. But because human beings are infinitely variable, such studies are not as conclusive as clinical trials. Moreover, body biochemistry is inherently complex, and the synergy between several substances is often more effective than just one compound in isolation.

As a supplement, there is no recommended dose for any particular condition, and it is uncertain how well quercetin supplements can be absorbed through the intestines.

American Cancer Society – An overview of the current research position.

Wellness Guide to Dietary Supplements
– A shorter overview.

Diet and Health – An overview of benefits from a dietary supplements information site.

Alternative Medicine Review – A thorough review of the research up to 2000, including a discussion of dosage, absorption rates, and safety.

American Medical Association – “Inhibitory Effects of Quercetin and Other Polyphenols on Human Oral Cancer Cell Proliferation.” A cell culture study.

Carcinogenesis – “Quercetin Inhibits the Expression and Function of the Androgen Receptor in LNCaP Prostate Cancer Cells.”

Drug Metabolism and Disposition – “Inhibition of Lung Cancer Cell Growth by Quercetin Glucuronides via G2/M Arrest and Induction of Apoptosis.”

Nutrition Journal – “The Effects of Quercetin on SW480 Human Colon Carcinoma Cells.”

Soy Products, Fermented Soy Extracts, Haelan 951, Soy Essence, Nutra-Soy,
Soy Option, EcoGen, etc.

A large number of studies have demonstrated that certain phytochemicals in soy beans help to reduce the risk of cancer, and that the bioavailability of these substances is greatly increased by fermentation. Fermented soy products such as miso, tempeh and natto are a natural part of the diet of the Chinese and Japanese, who have a low risk of breast, colon and prostate cancer (though this may also be related to other dietary and lifestyle factors).

The phytochemicals responsible include the isoflavones, genistein and daidzein. Genistein prevents cancer cells from producing proteins that help cancer cells survive the attacks of the body's immune system. Genistein and daidzein also have antioxidant effects. Additionally, they have been shown to inhibit the proliferation of cells in various cancer cell cultures, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, sarcoma, neuroblastoma, and retinoblastoma. Genistein has also been reported to inhibit angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels required by developing tumours). Soy isoflavones have also been shown to inhibit the enzyme that activates testosterone in the prostate gland and other tissues. This is a potentially effective therapeutic approach to benign prostate enlargement. Other soy substances have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels by binding to the cholesterol in the intestines, inhibiting its absorption.

But a full understanding of the processes by which fermented soy phytochemicals help counteract cancer remains elusive. It has been suggested that soy products may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer. Later studies, however, have indicated that this is not so, perhaps because the phyto-oestrogens in soy products are far weaker than those produced by the body or present in contraceptives.

No negative side effects have been reported except in those with an allergy to soy products. However, genistein counters the efficacy of tamoxifen, a drug commonly used to treat breast cancer. Soy products are also contraindicated among patients with oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, although some researchers point out that the phytooestrogens in soy extracts are so much weaker than those produced by the body that the possible effect is more theoretical than actual. It may also be wise to avoid feeding soy milk to babies and young children.

A number of fermented soy extracts are sold as nutritional supplements. Perhaps the most hyped of these in the cancer world is Haelan 951. According to the manufacturer, “Haelan's (patented) fermentation process hydrolyzes many of the soy bean proteins into amino acids and compounds that are rich in nitrogen and fermentation metabolites of the naturally occurring isoflavones such as genistein, protease inhibitors, saponins, phytosterols, and inositol hexaphosphate (IP-6) compounds in soy beans.” It is described as “an excellent source of pre-digested soy proteins”. It is a thick, beige, bitter-tasting liquid.

The manufacturer of Haelan 951 market it as a high quality nutritional supplement. In a cancer situation, it is promoted as a help in lessening the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, rather than as a specific anti-cancer agent. They point to a Chinese clinical study involving 318 such cancer patients where Haelan 951 proved useful. Independent, peer-reviewed clinical trials have yet to be conducted.

Other fermented soy extracts include the Chinese preparations, SE-185 and Yang-851, Soy Essence (Jarrow), EcoGen (Econugenics), Nutra-Soy (Narula Research Products), and Soy Option (BioImmune). At around $50 a bottle per day, Haelan is vastly more expensive than the other products, though whether it is a more effective product against cancer remains uncertain. Haelan is said to be the most bitter-tasting of them all.

Haelan Products – The Canadian distributor's informative website. Understandably, they are keen to market their product, which is reflected in the way information is presented. The US corporate website in Seattle has less information.

Haelan Research Foundation
– Details some of the background research.

Well Being Journal – An article concerning the cancer-reversal properties of Haelan 951, largely supported by anecdotal evidence.

Wolfe Clinic – Details of the Chinese clinical trial of Haelan 951.

Columbia News Service – Wendy Brantley's experience with Haelan 951.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center – A brief overview of Haelan 951, with some references to research on soy isoflavones.

Healthier Life – A UK vendor of Haelan 951, with a useful promotional overview, providing references to some scientific studies.

Long Life Catalog Company – A US vendor of Haelan 951. This company provides no postal or email contact addresses.

Cancer Research UK – A press release concerning an epidemiological study that confirms a link between the consumption of soy products and a decreased risk of breast cancer.

BBC News – A news report concerning a study of over 3000 people at the University of Texas Anderson Cancer Center on the positive benefits of the dietary consumption of phyto-oestrogens in regard to the risk of developing lung cancer.

PubMed – Search for “soya cancer”, for a long list of scientific studies.

Numark Pharmacists – A useful overview of the benefits of eating soy products, with references to scientific studies.

Ruchi Health – The top 10 benefits of soy products.

Onibasu – Dr Barry Groves' article concerning the dangers of soy products, exemplifying the fact that experts often disagree. However, since millions of people in the Far East have consumed soy products for centuries without problems, his case would seem to be overstated.

Fresh Vegetable and Fruit Juices – Beta-Carotene etc.

A m
orning, before-breakfast juice, freshly made from approximately four parts carrot to one part apple, is commonly recommended for cancer patients. About half a litre is good, but for optimal bodily absorption, it may be best to drink it in two lots, with at least an hour between. On the other hand, something is lost from the juice when not taken fresh, and it may not be practical to make two lots of juice.

Fresh carrot juice provides many essential nutritional elements, among which is beta-carotene, metabolized by the body into vitamin A, and commonly included in anti-cancer dietary regimes. If you want to add in a known anti-cancer agent, then juice around 50 gms of fresh turmeric root (from an Asian grocery store). You can also juice a little garlic (if you like the flavour) and fresh root ginger (about an inch and a half), both of which are believed to possess anti-cancer properties. Note that no optimal dose of turmeric or any other juice has been established for combating cancer. Some dietary regimes include the consumption of juices several times a day. Use properly grown organic produce wherever you can.

No scientific trials have been conducted concerning the efficacy of carrot juice as a cancer-preventative or cancer-cure agent. On the contrary, trials suggest an association between diets rich in beta-carotene and vitamin A and a higher risk of lung cancer among smokers (but not non-smokers). Fruits and vegetables, however, are regarded as essential for good health, and contain many anti-cancer substances, some more specific than others. Pomegranate juice, for instance, has been found to contain substances that counter prostate cancer, and other fruits and vegetables have been mentioned in these notes. Internet searches containing keywords such as “cancer carotene carrots”, “cancer pomegranate” or “cancer juice trials” produce many interesting results.

A variety of helpful things can be added to your morning juice. These include:

Extra-virgin olive oil – This is useful, since beta-carotene is better absorbed into the body through association with oil. A tablespoonful per glass is sufficient. Not required if using flaxseed or omega oils.

Flaxseed oil – high in omega-3 fatty acids, another possible anti-cancer agent. A tablespoonful is sufficient.

Omega oil a blend of oils high in omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. A tablespoonful is sufficient.

Wheatgrass powder – useful if growing/purchasing live wheatgrass and making fresh juice is more than you want to take on board. Powdered wheatgrass is unlikely to be as good as fresh juice, but it does still contain many nutritious substances.

Turmeric powder – add a small teaspoonful if you can’t get the fresh root for juicing.

Aloe vera – a couple of tablespoonfuls of the juice.

Wheatgrass powder, turmeric root and Aloe vera are bitter, spoiling the flavour of the juice, so they can be prepared in a separate glass with a little of the carrot/apple juice – a witches’ brew to be drunk first. According to your taste buds, you could also add the juice of garlic and fresh root ginger to this mix. Don’t forget to drink juices slowly.

Carrot Museum – A good information site concerning the nutritional value of carrots.

PubMed (NCBI)Protective Dietary Factors and Lung Cancer. A report from the Department of Pathology, Louisiana State University Medical Center.

National Cancer Institute Factsheet – Some facts concerning trials which indicate that smokers (but not others) have a higher risk of lung cancer if they take beta-carotene.

Positive Health – The role of vitamin A/beta-carotene in cancer prevention and treatment; note that the trial on beta-carotene and smokers is incorrectly reported.

Ellagic Acid & Ellagitannins

Ellagic acid is an antioxidant polyphenol found in red and black raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, pomegranates, cranberries, blueberries, grapes, pecans, walnuts, and a number of other fruits. Ellagitannins are formed in plants from the combination of ellagic acid and glucose. The highest levels of ellagic acid and ellagitannins are found in raspberries, strawberries and pomegranates, especially when freeze-dried. There is also some variation of content, not only between the various cultivars, but also from year to year. In the USA, the Meeker red raspberry is said to be the best source, followed by the Chilliwack and Willamette cultivars.

The earliest research on ellagic acid concerned its involvement with blood clotting, and was done in the 1960s. Much of the pioneering work on ellagic acid and cancer was begun by Dr Daniel Dixon and his team in the 1993, during his time at the Hollings Cancer Centre at the Medical University of South Carolina. Cell culture and animal studies have demonstrated that ellagic acid can inhibit the growth of tongue, oesophageal, lung, colon, bladder, prostate, skin, and other tumours. In addition to its antioxidant properties, ellagic acid has been shown to possess antiviral and antibacterial properties, and to cause apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells. Other studies indicate that it may help the liver deal with carcinogens in the blood, may possess anti-angiogenic properties (inhibiting the formation of new blood vessels required for tumour growth), may provide protection against DNA damage, may promote wound healing, may reduce the incidence of birth defects, and may inhibit or even reverse fibrosis of the liver. However, there are as yet no clinical human studies demonstrating these effects.

In the only human trial conducted so far, Italian researchers found that ellagic acid helped reduce the side effects of chemotherapy in men with advanced prostate cancer, although disease progression was not retarded. Other cell culture research has shown that ellagic acid acts synergistically with other compounds, such as quercetin and resveratrol. This is significant, since fruits and vegetables generally contain a number of anti-carcinogenic substances, which often act together. A supplement containing ellagic acid alone is therefore less likely to be of benefit than an extract of the whole fruit, or even of the whole fruit itself. There is also considerable confusion regarding the best way of creating supplements rich in ellagic acid. In fact, it seems as if a cup (150gms) of red raspberries or red raspberry pureé a day may be the best way to get ellagic acid into the system.

The body responds to many medications as toxins, and tries to eliminate them. Because of its effect upon the liver, which helps metabolize toxins into a form that can be eliminated, there may therefore be some interactions between ellagic acid and other medications and supplements. Raspberry leaf tea or supplements should not be taken during pregnancy, since they may induce labour.

American Cancer Society – A general overview. ACS also have an interesting news release concerning black raspberries.

Ray Sahelian – A useful precis of some ellagic acid studies follows the product blurb on pomegranate extract from this vendor.

Life Extension Foundation – Click the “medical abstracts” box and search for “ellagic acid” to bring up a useful collection of abstracts from various studies.

Alpha Omega Labs – An interesting collection of ten abstracts of published scientific studies, provided by a vendor of Meeker raspberries.

Ohio State University – “Evaluation of Ellagic Acid Content of Ohio Berries.” Demonstrating differences between cultivars, and year on year.

Wheatgrass Juice

Wheatgrass juice (high in vitamins and chlorophyll etc.) undoubtedly provides a significant boost to general health maintenance, and is commonly used as part of a program to help combat serious illness. However, there is no scientific evidence that it has any effect on cancer, although it is fair to add that very little scientific research has actually been conducted. Like a number of such alternatives, there is considerable anecdotal evidence regarding its efficacy, and wheatgrass juice has developed something of a cult status. It is often used as part of a complete raw food regime.

Hippocrates Institute – Information on wheatgrass from the institute founded by wheatgrass pioneers, Ann Wigmore and Viktoras Kulvinskas.

EzineArticles.comPrevent Cancer - Will a Daily Shot of Wheatgrass Juice Help?

Wholistic Research Company – A UK site with information, books and products for growing and juicing wheatgrass.

Dietary Fibre and Sodium Butyrate

Various studies have shown that dietary fibre decreases the risk of colon cancer. There may be several biological processes underlying this, but one of them involves sodium butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid produced by anaerobic bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract during the normal fermentation of dietary fibre. Sodium butyrate serves as an anti-inflammatory agent and nutrient for normal colon cells, but it has been shown to induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) and differentiation into a benign form in laboratory cultures of both breast and colon cancer cells, and to have inhibited the formation of colon cancer in animal studies. The mechanism by which this happens is believed to be through the switching on of the human p21 gene in colon cells, which in turn produces the p21 protein, which stops cancerous cells from dividing.

There are also studies indicating that sodium butyrate inhibits angiogenesis (growth of blood vessels, required by tumours bigger than 2mm) by modulating the expression of two important angiogenesis-related molecules (VEGF, vascular endothelial growth factors). This suggests that sodium butyrate may be useful as an anti-angiogenic factor in association with chemotherapy.

It is likely that sodium butyrate will cause the death of other kinds of cancer cell. But while a diet high in fibre permits a sufficient supply of sodium butyrate to colon cells, some also being absorbed into the body, the presently unsolved problem with existing cancers is how to deliver sodium butyrate to them in sufficient quantities to arrest or even reverse their growth. Almost all of the links that follow are to scientific studies.

Harvard Medical School – “Mechanism Found for Fiber's Effect Against Colon Cancer.”

University of Saskatchewan – “New Research into Gene-Regulating Mechanism Could Help Battle Cancer.”

Nature.com – A listing of some of relevant research papers.

US Agricultural Research Service – “Prolonged Butyrate Treatment Inhibits the Migration and Invasion of Potential Ht1080 Tumor Cells.”

Carcinogenesis – “Modulation of Angiogenesis-related Proteins Synthesis by Sodium Butyrate in Colon Cancer Cell Line HT29.”

Carcinogenesis – “Activation of Protein Kinase C Augments Butyrate-induced Differentiation and Turnover in Human Colonic Epithelial Cells in Vitro.”

Nutrition and Cancer – “Dietary Butyrate Inhibits NMU-Induced Mammary Cancer in Rats.”

Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology – “Colonic production of butyrate in patients with previous colonic cancer during long-term treatment with dietary fibre (Plantago ovata seeds).”

Health Notes
– “Eat more beans to prevent colon cancer. A news article concerning research linking the consumption of dry beans to the prevention of colorectal cancer.

Copyright John Davidson, 2006, 2008, 2012

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