Cranberries versus Cancer

Breast Cancer Authority Blog Cranberries vs. CancerBy: Micheal Greger, MD, Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

In addition to suppressing liver cancer growth in vitro, cranberries have been found to have similar effects against human breast, colon, brain tumor, oral, and ovarian cancer cells. Here’s the latest looking at prostate cancer cell growth. The United States has the highest rate of prostate cancer in the world, so let’s try a native American fruit. Researchers started out with about 50,000 human prostate cancer cells in a petri dish and if you do nothing, within a day you’re closer to 100,000, then 200,000 and then nearly 400,000 within 72 hours. But by adding just a smidgeon of cranberries, or two smidgeons, you can see they block that exponential cancer growth.

The reason they tested such tiny concentrations, is that we only absorb a small fraction of the cranberry phytonutrients we eat into our bloodstream. Still, cranberries are cheap. If drug companies and supplement manufacturers are going to capitalize on this they needed to find cranberry’s active ingredient. Here’s some of the various phytonutrients in cranberries, so different fractions were tested against various types of cancer to find the magic bullet. Yes, the anthocyanin phytonutrients inhibit colon cancer cell proliferation about 15% for example, about the same with the proanthocyanidins, but nothing compared to the Total Cranberry Extract of the whole fruit. There seemed to be additive or synergistic antiproliferative effects resulting from the combination of the various components compared to individual purified phytochemicals. So it’s always better to eat the whole fruit.

How do you do that with cranberries, though? Although 5% of cranberries are sold fresh, the vast majority are consumed as processed products. To get the same amount of anthocyanin phytonutrients in a cup of fresh or frozen cranberries, you’d have to drink 16 cups of cranberry juice cocktail, eat 7 cups of dried cranberries, or 26 cans of cranberry sauce.

The problem is that raw cranberries are so tart that folks may opt for the 7 cups of dried. In a taste test survey, consumers said they wouldn’t mind eating sweetened cranberries every day, raw cranberries sloped down towards maybe once a year. The problem is dried cranberries tend to come sweetened. Raw cranberries don’t affect your blood sugar, but sweetened dried cranberries do, even the low sugar varieties.

What about cranberry juice, or shall I say quote-unquote juice? Cranberry cocktail is only about a quarter cranberry juice. The ruby red phytonutrients in cranberries and pure cranberry juice are powerful antioxidants, increasing the antioxidant capacity of our bloodstream within hours of consumption. But the high fructose corn syrup acts as a pro-oxidant, even if you add vitamin C to it as they did here, cancelling out some of the cranberry benefit. So how do you get the upsides without the down? Check out my pink juice video, where I offer a recipe for making no added sugar whole fruit cranberry cocktail.

Doctor’s Note

The whole fruit cocktail of which I spoke is detailed in Pink Juice with Green Foam.

How do cranberries compare to other common fruits? Check out my last video, Which Fruit Fights Cancer Better?

More on nutrient synergy in:

And for another reason to avoid high fructose corn syrup: Mercury in Corn Syrup?

Suppressing cancer growth in a petri dish is nice, but what about within the human body? Wait until you see my next two videos—Strawberries versus Esophageal Cancer and Black Raspberries versus Oral Cancer. Hold on to your hats!

Check out my associated blog posts for more context:  Which Common Fruit Fights Cancer Better?Anti-Cancer Nutrient Synergy in Cranberries, and Raspberries Reverse Precancerous Lesions

Michael Greger M.D.About Michael Greger M.D.Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States. https://plus.google.com/share?url=http%3A%2F%2Fbreastcanceryogablog.com%2F2015%2F09%2F17%2Fcranberries-versus-cancer%2F

Which Fruit Fights Cancer Better?

Cranberries for Breast Cancer PreventionBy: Dr. Michael Greger, Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

There are many ways to compare the healthfulness of different foods. One can compare nutrient content, for example. So if you were interested in antioxidants you might compare vitamin C levels. If you did that with our two most popular fruits, apples and bananas, based on vitamin C content bananas would appear twice as healthy, 10 mg in a banana compared to only 5mg in an apple. But vitamin C is just one of thousands of different phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables. Turns out the vitamin C in apples accounts for less than 1% of an apple’s total antioxidant activity.

Here’s the total antioxidant content of a red delicious apple. Here’s how much the vitamin C in the apple contributes. You can hardly even see it. Even though there’s only about 5mg of vitamin C in a small apple, it has the antioxidant equivalent of 1500 mg of vitamin C. I’ve reviewed before how taking that much vitamin C straight in a supplement may actually have a pro-oxidant effect and cause DNA damage, but you can get three times that antioxidant power eating an apple, without the adverse effects.

Of course there’s more than just vitamin C in bananas too. In fact I was surprised to see this study out of Harvard suggesting that not only blueberries and strawberries, but bananas was a significant source of anthocyanins, the red/blue/violet phytonutrients found in berries. Maybe I underestimated bananas. They are after all, technically berries.

Still, I’m looking three fruits and I’m seeing some anthocyanins here and here, but not seeing much red, blue, or violet here. Now wild bananas are a different story. There’s anthocyanins in blue, purple, orange red, red purple, and pink purple bananas, but none in yellow… So the Harvard researchers were challenged on it and they said look, we just took values from the USDA, and it turns out USDA apparently made a mistake. No anthocyanins in bananas, and despite twice the vitamin C, bananas were beat out by apples in terms of overall antioxidant power. But that’s just measuring the ability of these fruits to quench an oxidation reaction in a test tube. It would be nice to measure actual biological activity. For example in this apple study, they also measured the ability of apple extracts, from both peeled and unpeeled apples, to suppress the growth of human cancer cells growing in a petri dish compared to control. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to compare that kind of superpower between different fruits. Well, now we can.

Here is a graph of cancer cell proliferation versus increasing concentrations of the 11 most common fruits eaten in the United States. They decided to use liver cancer for this study. If you drip water on these cancer cells as a control, nothing happens they start out powering away at 100% growth and they keep powering away at 100% growth. And pineapples, pears, and oranges don’t do much better. Peaches start pulling away from the pack. At high peach concentrations, cancer cell proliferation drops about 10%, but bananas and grapefruits work about 4 times better, dropping cancer growth rates by about 40%. Red grapes, strawberries and apples do even better, cutting cancer cell growth up to half at only half the dose, but these two fruits are the winners, causing a dramatic drop in cancer proliferation at just tiny doses, lemons, and, cranberries.

So if you look at the effective dose required to suppress liver cancer cell proliferation, apples are more powerful than bananas, but cranberries win the day. And there was no effective dose listed for orange, pear, and pineapple since they didn’t appear to affect the cancer cell growth at all.

Doctor’s Note
How can you consume cranberries palatably? Check out my recipe for Pink Juice with Green Foam.
More berried treasure in my next three videos:

Michael Greger M.D.About Michael Greger M.D.
Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

Photo Source: http://www.uhhospitals.org

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