A Colorful Whole Food Diet Can Help Prevent Colon Cancer and IBS
Previously, scientists have found that colorful compounds in fruits and vegetables can help prevent cancer when these concepts were tested on mice. We don’t advocate animal testing, but note that researchers decided to take the theories to pigs. Not only are their digestive systems eerily similar to humans, but they can eat just about anything.
When an international team of researchers gave pigs three differing diets: one standard, one higher calorie/fat, and a high-fat/inflammatory diet, they garnered amazing results after also feeding the pigs with the worst diet some healthy, purple potatoes (raw and baked).
There was a standard diet with 5 percent fat; a high-calorie diet, with 17 percent added dry fat pkus 3 to 4 percent added endogenous fat; and the high fat/high calorie diet supplemented with purple-fleshed potatoes.
Penn State reports:
In the study, pigs that were served a high calorie diet supplemented with purple-fleshed potatoes had less colonic mucosal interleukin-6 — IL-6 — compared to a control group. IL-6 is a protein that is important in inflammation, and elevated IL-6 levels are correlated with proteins, such as Ki-67, that are linked to the spread and growth of cancer cells, said Vanamala, who also is a faculty member at the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute.
Amazingly, the expression of IL-6 was six times lower in pigs that ate the purple potato-enhanced feed compared to the control group. That means, despite the dismal diet, just the addition of purple foods created a cancer-fighting meal.
According to the researchers, who reported their findings in a recent issue of the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, eating whole foods that contain macronutrients — substances that humans need in large amounts, such as proteins — as well as micro- and phytonutrients, such as vitamins, carotenoids and flavonoids, may be effective in altering the IL-6 pathway.
The almighty purple potato was chosen for this study for its rich, bioactive anthocyanins and phenolic acids that were previously linked to cancer prevention (and fighting obesity). But the researchers emphasize that other colorful fruits and vegetables propel similar results.
“For example, white potatoes may have helpful compounds, but the purple potatoes have much greater concentrations of these anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant compounds,” said Vanamala. “We use the purple potato as a model and hope to investigate how other plants can be used in the future.”
“What we are learning is that food is a double-edge sword — it may promote disease, but it may also help prevent chronic diseases, like colon cancer,” said Jairam K.P. Vanamala, associate professor of food sciences at Penn State. “What we don’t know is, ‘how does this food work on the molecular level?’ This study is a step in that direction.”
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The researchers think that this is more evidence that a plant-based diet is key, as the Western diet with its emphasis on meat correlates with higher cancer rates. Eastern countries traditionally have a more diverse, colorful diet and have demonstrably lower cancer rates.
They also know that while there are drugs that hamper the expression of IL-6 to treat other chronic disease like rheumatoid arthritis, they are not without dangerous side effects and drug tolerance.
“If this model works, we can see what works in other countries,” Vanamala, said. “Instead of promoting a pill, we can promote fruits and vegetables that are very rich in anti-inflammatory compounds to counter the growing problem of chronic disease.”