Like many other colorful fruits and vegetables, purple potatoes contain high levels of beneficial nutrients. Researchers from Pennsylvania State University have found that such brightly hued produce can lower the risk of colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease in pigs.
“What we are learning is that food is a double-edge sword — it may promote disease, but it may also help prevent many chronic diseases, like colon cancer,” said Jairam K.P. Vanamala, Associate Professor of Food Sciences, 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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Purple Potatoes Linked to Six-Fold Reduction in Chemical Tied to Cancer
In the 13-week experiment published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, researchers divided pigs into three groups. One group was fed a high-caloric diet (HCD), another group was fed a HCD supplemented with purple potatoes, and a third group was fed a standard diet. At the conclusion of the intervention period, the pigs were examined for inflammatory markers.
The pigs that received the HCD had increased levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) compared to a control group. IL-6 plays a key role in inflammation, and high levels are tied to harmful proteins that fuel the growth and spread of cancer cells, said Vanamala.
Conversely, the pigs that received the HCD with purple potatoes showed a six-fold decline in IL-6 compared to a control group. They experienced this benefit regardless of whether the potatoes were baked or raw.
The scientists explained that eating whole foods with macronutrients, which are substances people need in large amounts like proteins, along with micro- and phytonutrients, such as flavonoids, carotenoids and vitamins, may be responsible for altering the IL-6 pathway.
Earlier research has indicated dietary changes of cutting meat intake and increasing the consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains reduces the risk of the disease. The new findings reinforce these discoveries, said Vanamala.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 95,520 new cases of colon cancer and 39,910 new cases of rectal cancer will occur in 2017. During this year, colorectal malignancy is expected to cause 50,260 fatalities. While the death rate has been dropping in recent decades, it remains one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in the U.S.
Other Colorful Fruits and Vegetables Provide Same Protection
According to Vanamala, other colorful fruits and vegetables would provide the same colon cancer protection as the purple potatoes. Vivid-colored produce contain compounds such as phenolic acids and anthocyanins, which have been connected to cancer prevention.
“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.”
An additional benefit of treating cancer with whole foods is that it would likely help small farmers and the agricultural industry.
“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.”
The market has some IL-6 drugs that are currently used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Although the medications are being considered as tools to treat inflammation-driven diseases like colon cancer, they are costly and have side effects.
Eating Your Way to Better Colon Health
Vanamala’s idea of promoting fruits and vegetables rather than a pill to address chronic disease is excellent advice. Making the main part of your diet multiple-colored produce can do much to protect you from cancer, heart disease and a number of other ills that plague the modern world. Each color group contains healthful phytochemicals. For instance, red tomatoes and raspberries are rich in the antioxidant lycopene; orange carrots are plentiful in beta-carotene; spinach and broccoli are good sources of vitamins K, C and E; and blueberries are abundant in anthocyanins.
White produce is also valuable, as apples and pears contain quercetin. In addition, a study found a high intake of white fruits and vegetables are linked to a greatly reduced risk of strokes.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.