Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed invasive cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the United States. It is the prevalence of this terrible disease that makes work on beneficial natural products so interesting. In the most recent case, six studies have been published in the last year by a Cornell researcher; all of them add to the growing supply of evidence that apples have a huge, beneficial effect on our health.
In one of his recent papers, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Dr. Rui Hai Liu, Cornell associate professor of food science and a member of Cornell's Institute for Comparative and Environmental Toxicology, reports that fresh apple extracts significantly inhibited the size of mammary tumors in rats -- and the more extracts they were given, the greater the reduction.
"We not only observed that the treated animals had fewer tumors, but the tumors were smaller, less malignant and grew more slowly compared with the tumors in the untreated rats," said Liu, pointing out that the new study confirmed the findings of his preliminary work in rats published eighteen months ago.
His latest research found that a type of adenocarcinoma (a highly malignant tumor and the main cause of death of breast-cancer patients) was evident in 81 percent of tumors in the control animals. However, for the animals fed apple extracts, the situation was dramatically different. The adenocarcinoma developed in only 57 percent, 50 percent and 23 percent of the rats which were fed low, middle and high doses of apple extracts during the 24-week study. (This is the equivalent of one, three and six apples a day in humans).
Phytochemicals are the star of studies like these (also known as phenolics or flavonoids). These compounds are found in apples and other fruits and vegetables. Liu reported in the same journal that apples provide 33 percent of the phenolics that Americans consume annually.
In a study of apple peel published in the same journal (issue 56:21), Liu reported on a variety of new phenolic compounds that he discovered that also have "potent antioxidant and anti-proliferative activities" on tumors. And in yet another study in the same journal (issue 56:24), he reported on his discovery of the specific modulation effects that apple extracts have on cell cycle machinery. Recently, Liu's group also reported the finding that apple phytochemicals inhibit an important inflammation pathway in human breast cancer cells.
"These studies add to the growing evidence that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, including apples, would provide consumers with more phenolics, which are proving to have important health benefits. I would encourage consumers to eat more and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables daily."