Turmeric Teams Up with Cauliflower to Halt Prostate Cancer

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Prostate cancer—the second leading cause of cancer death in American men with 500,000 new cases appearing each year—is a rare occurrence among men in India, whose low risk is attributed to a diet rich in brassica family vegetables and the curry spice, turmeric.

Scientists tested turmeric, a concentrated source of the phytonutrient curcumin, along with phenethyl isothiocyanates, a phytochemical abundant in cruciferous vegetables including cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi and turnips.

When tested singly, both phenethyl isothiocyanate and curcumin greatly retarded the growth of human prostate cancer cells implanted in immune-deficient mice. In mice with well-established prostate cancer tumors, neither phenethyl isothiocyanate nor curcumin by itself had a protective effect, but when combined, they significantly reduced both tumor growth and the ability of the prostate cancer cells to spread (metastasize) in the test animals.

The researchers believe the combination of cruciferous vegetables and curcumin could be an effective therapy not only to prevent prostate cancer, but to inhibit the spread of established prostate cancers. Best of all, this combination—cauliflower spiced with turmeric—is absolutely delicious! For protection against prostate cancer, cut cauliflower florets in quarters and let sit for 5-10 minutes; this allows time for the production of phenethyl isothiocyanates, which form when cruciferous vegetables are cut, but stops when they are heated. Then sprinkle with turmeric, and healthy sauté on medium heat in a few tablespoons of vegetable or chicken broth for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and top with olive oil, sea salt and pepper to taste.

Turmeric and Onions May Help Prevent Colon Cancer

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Curcumin, a phytonutrient found in the curry spice turmeric, and quercitin, an antioxidant in onions, reduce both the size and number of precancerous lesions in the human intestinal tract, shows research published in the August 2006 issue of Clinical Gasteroenterology and Hepatology.

Five patients with an inherited form of precancerous polyps in the lower bowel known as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) were treated with regular doses of curcumin and quercetin over an average of six months. The average number of polyps dropped 60.4%, and the average size of the polyps that did develop dropped by 50.9%.

FAP runs in families and is characterized by the development of hundreds of polyps (colorectal adenomas) and, eventually, colon cancer. Recently, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen) have been used to treat some patients with this condition, but these drugs often produce significant side effects, including gastrointestinal ulcerations and bleeding, according to lead researcher Francis M. Giardiello, M.D., at the Division of Gastroenterology, Johns Hopkins University.

Previous observational studies in populations that consume large amounts of curry, as well as animal research, have strongly suggested that curcumin, one of the main ingredients in Asian curries, might be effective in preventing and/or treating cancer in the lower intestine. Similarly, quercetin, an anti-oxidant flavonoid found in a variety of foods including onions, green tea and red wine, has been shown to inhibit growth of colon cancer cell lines in humans and abnormal colorectal cells in animals.

In this study, a decrease in polyp number was observed in four of five patients at three months and four of four patients at six months.

Each patient received curcumin (480 mg) and quercetin (20 mg) orally 3 times a day for 6 months. Although the amount of quercetin was similar to what many people consume daily, the curcumin consumed was more than would be provided in a typical diet because turmeric only contains on average 3-5 % curcumin by weight.

While simply consuming curry and onions may not have as dramatic an effect as was produced in this study, this research clearly demonstrates that liberal use of turmeric and onions can play a protective role against the development of colorectal cancer. And turmeric doesn’t have to only be used in curries. This spice is delicious on healthy sautéed apples, and healthy steamed cauliflower and/or green beans and onions. Or, for a flavor-rich, low-calorie dip, try adding some turmeric and dried onion to creamy yogurt.

Inhibits Cancer Cell Growth and Metastases

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Epidemiological studies have linked the frequent use of turmeric to lower rates of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer; laboratory experiments have shown curcumin can prevent tumors from forming; and research conducted at the University of Texas suggests that even when breast cancer is already present, curcumin can help slow the spread of breast cancer cells to the lungs in mice.

In this study, published in Biochemical Pharmacology(September 2005), human breast cancer cells were injected into mice, and the resulting tumors removed to simulate a mastectomy.

The mice were then divided into four groups. One group received no further treatment and served as a control. A second group was given the cancer drug paclitaxel (Taxol); the third got curcumin, and the fourth was given both Taxol and curcumin.

After five weeks, only half the mice in the curcumin-only group and just 22% of those in the curcumin plus Taxol group had evidence of breast cancer that had spread to the lungs.

But 75% of the mice that got Taxol alone and 95% of the control group developed lung tumours.

How did curcumin help? “Curcumin acts against transcription factors, which are like a master switch,” said lead researcher, Bharat Aggarwal. “Transcription factors regulate all the genes needed for tumors to form. When we turn them off, we shut down some genes that are involved in the growth and invasion of cancer cells.”

In another laboratory study of human non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cells published in Biochemical Pharmacology (September 2005), University of Texas researchers showed that curcumin inhibits the activation of NF-kappaB, a regulatory molecule that signals genes to produce a slew of inflammatory molecules (including TNF, COX-2 and IL-6) that promote cancer cell growth. In addition, curcumin was found to suppress cancer cell proliferation and to induce cell cycle arrest and apoptosis (cell suicide) in the lung cancer cells. Early phase I clinical trials at the University of Texas are now also looking into curcumin’s chemopreventive and therapeutic properties against multiple myeloma and pancreatic cancer, and other research groups are investigating curcumin’s ability to prevent oral cancer.

Cancer Prevention

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Curcumin’s antioxidant actions enable it to protect the colon cells from free radicals that can damage cellular DNA—a significant benefit particularly in the colon where cell turnover is quite rapid, occuring approximately every three days. Because of their frequent replication, mutations in the DNA of colon cells can result in the formation of cancerous cells much more quickly. Curcumin also helps the body to destroy mutated cancer cells, so they cannot spread through the body and cause more harm. A primary way in which curcumin does so is by enhancing liver function. Additionally, other suggested mechanisms by which it may protect against cancer development include inhibiting the synthesis of a protein thought to be instrumental in tumor formation and preventing the development of additional blood supply necessary for cancer cell growth.

Help for Cystic Fibrosis Sufferers

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Curcumin, the major constituent of turmeric that gives the spice its yellow color, can correct the most common expression of the genetic defect that is responsible for cystic fibrosis, suggests an animal study published in the Science (April 2004). Cystic fibrosis, a fatal disease that attacks the lungs with a thick mucus, causing life-threatening infections, afflicts about 30,000 American children and young adults, who rarely survive beyond 30 years of age. The mucus also damages the pancreas, thus interfering with the body’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients.

Researchers now know that cystic fibrosis is caused by mutations in the gene that encodes for a protein (the transmembrane conductance regulator or CFTR). The CTFR protein is responsible for traveling to the cell’s surface and creating channels through which chloride ions can leave the cell. When the protein is abnormally shaped because of a faulty gene, this cannot happen, so chloride builds up in the cells, which in turn, leads to mucus production.

The most common mutation, which is called DeltaF508, results in the production of a misfolded protein. When mice with this DeltaF508 defect were given curcumin in doses that, on a weight-per-weight basis, would be well-tolerated by humans, curcumin corrected this defect, resulting in a DeltaF508 protein with normal appearance and function. In addition, the Yale scientists studying curcumin have shown that it can inhibit the release of calcium, thus allowing mutated CTFR to exit cells via the calcium channels, which also helps stop the chloride-driven build up of mucus. Specialists in the treatment of cystic fibrosis caution, however, that patients should not self-medicate with dietary supplements containing curcumin, until the correct doses are known and any adverse interactions identified with the numerous prescription drugs taken by cystic fibrosis sufferers.

Relief for Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Clinical studies have substantiated that curcumin also exerts very powerful antioxidant effects. As an antioxidant, curcumin is able to neutralize free radicals, chemicals that can travel through the body and cause great amounts of damage to healthy cells and cell membranes. This is important in many diseases, such as arthritis, where free radicals are responsible for the painful joint inflammation and eventual damage to the joints. Turmeric’s combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects explains why many people with joint disease find relief when they use the spice regularly. In a recent study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin was compared to phenylbutazone and produced comparable improvements in shortened duration of morning stiffness, lengthened walking time, and reduced joint swelling.

An Effective Treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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Curcumin may provide an inexpensive, well-tolerated, and effective treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, recent research suggests. In this study, mice given an inflammatory agent that normally induces colitis were protected when curcumin was added to their diet five days beforehand. The mice receiving curcumin not only lost much less weight than the control animals, but when researchers checked their intestinal cell function, all the signs typical of colitis (mucosal ulceration, thickening of the intestinal wall, and the infiltration of inflammatory cells)were all much reduced. While the researchers are not yet sure exactly how curcumin achieves its protective effects, they think its benefits are the result of not only antioxidant activity, but also inhibition of a major cellular inflammatory agent called NF kappa-B. Plus, an important part of the good news reported in this study is the fact that although curcumin has been found to be safe at very large doses, this component of turmeric was effective at a concentration as low as 0.25 per cent—an amount easily supplied by simply enjoying turmeric in flavorful curries.

A Potent, Yet Safe Anti-Inflammatory

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The volatile oil fraction of turmeric has demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory activity in a variety of experimental models. Even more potent than its volatile oil is the yellow or orange pigment of turmeric, which is called curcumin. Curcumin is thought to be the primary pharmacological agent in turmeric. In numerous studies, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be comparable to the potent drugs hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as Motrin. Unlike the drugs, which are associated with significant toxic effects (ulcer formation, decreased white blood cell count, intestinal bleeding), curcumin produces no toxicity.

Key Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper

cayenne pepper bowlKey Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper

• This herb is a great food for the circulatory system in that it feeds the necessary elements into the cell structure of the arteries, veins and capillaries so that these regain the elasticity of youth again, and the blood pressure adjusts itself to normal. It rebuilds the tissue in the stomach and heals the stomach and intestinal ulcers; in equalizing the blood circulation, it produces natural warmth in your body; and in stimulating the peristaltic motion of the intestines, it aids in assimilation and elimination.

• It regulates the flow of blood from the head to the feet so that the pressure is equalized; it influences the heart immediately, then gradually extends its effects to the arteries, capillaries, and nerves (the frequency of the pulse is not increased, but is given more vigor).

• Human circulation; it is warming; dilating; specific for varicose veins; equalizes the blood pressure in the arterial and venous system; actually equalizes blood pressure instantly.

• It is useful in alleviating allergies, muscle cramp, improving digestion, gives more pep and energy, and helps wound healing with minimal scar tissue.

• It is a counter-irritant; it brings blood to the surface and allows the toxins to be taken away.

health benefits of cayenne pepperIn an article reported on March 16, 2006 by Reuters, the main ingredient in Capsicum, capsaicin, was found to destroy prostate cancer cells. Here is what the article said,

Capsaicin led 80 percent of human prostate cancer cells growing in mice to commit suicide in a process known as apoptosis, the researchers said. Prostate cancer tumors in mice fed capsaicin were about one-fifth the size of tumors in untreated mice, they reported in the journal Cancer Research. ‘Capsaicin had a profound anti-proliferative effect on human prostate cancer cells in culture,’ said Dr. Soren Lehmann of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine.”

Understanding Glyphosate Toxicity:

A high-clearance sprayer applies Roundup herbicide on glyphosate-resistant marestail in a Mississippi no-till cotton field. The application failed and the weeds survived.
Photo by AgStock Images
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Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops are engineered to be herbicide tolerant, specifically when sprayed with Roundup. Now that the World Health Organization’s cancer research arm has designated Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” consumers need to fully understand how the chemical works on plants and, in turn, impacts human health. For in-depth answers about glyphosate’s toxicity and more, we turned to molecular biologist and retired genetic engineer Thierry Vrain.

MOTHER: When and why did you start researching glyphosate?

Thierry Vrain: I went to graduate school in North Carolina in the 1970s, where I was trained as a soil biologist — a nematologist, to be precise. Nematodes are microscopic worms in the soil that feed on the roots of plants and cause considerable yield loss for many types of crops. In school, I learned about agriculture and the damage caused by all sorts of pests and pathogens, such as nematodes, insects, and fungal diseases. I learned to deal with those pests by sterilizing soil or spraying pesticides. Halfway through my career, it became obvious that perhaps we could intervene at the molecular level to make crops naturally resistant to pests, so I learned molecular biology and became a genetic engineer. When I became head of a molecular biology department, I took it as my responsibility to educate people and try to assuage their fears about genetic engineering.

I retired 12 years ago and started gardening as a serious hobby. After gaining that hands-on experience, I realized how much damage pesticides cause to the living environment of the soil. I learned all sorts of things that I wasn’t taught in graduate school. For example, I learned that not only pesticides, but also regular fertilizers damage communities of microorganisms in soil. I became “organic,” so to speak.

At this point, I started reading scientific research showing a problem with genetic engineering. Rats and mice fed genetically engineered, Roundup Ready grain were getting sick. At first I couldn’t figure it out. My knowledge of the engineering technology made it clear to me that this should be safe. As I explain in my TEDx talk, “The Gene Revolution, the Future of Agriculture,” I couldn’t understand why adding a gene from one species to another could be toxic because this DNA technology is used every day in many research labs around the world to create a variety of transgenic animals and plants, to study their biology, and to advance various fields of knowledge. Only two years ago did I realize that the problem lies not with genetic engineering technology itself, but with the herbicide that’s sprayed on all Roundup Ready crops. Again, I took it as my responsibility to educate people.

MOTHER: When was this herbicide invented, and for what purpose?

Vrain: Roundup is the herbicide in question, and its active ingredient is glyphosate. Glyphosate is a very small molecule, an analog of glycine, which is one of the 20 amino acids that make up all proteins of all living organisms. This molecule was invented in the 1950s and patented in 1964 by Stauffer Chemical Co. in the United States. Stauffer Chemical was in the business of selling products that could clean mineral deposits off industrial pipes and boilers. Think of your electric kettle at home. After boiling water repeatedly over the course of a few months, you can see whitish mineral deposits on the walls of your kettle. Industries that use boiling water all the time must chemically remove the deposits every so often. The deposits are called “scales,” and the chemicals that remove them are called “descaling agents.” Glyphosate was invented as a descaling agent because it binds to all sorts of minerals and makes them unreactive, stripping them from the pipes. In biology and chemistry, we call this type of agent a “chelator,” and the binding of minerals is called “chelating.”

Somebody promptly figured out that glyphosate kills all bacteria and plants, and that there’s a lot more money to be made using this chemical as an herbicide rather than as a descaling agent. That’s when the chemical corporation Monsanto bought the rights to the molecule and patented it in 1969 as a nonselective herbicide.

MOTHER: How does glyphosate’s chelating ability affect the way it interacts with plants?

Vrain: Unlike animals and humans, bacteria and plants make their own proteins because they’re capable of synthesizing all 20 amino acids required as the building blocks of proteins. Bacteria and plants make three complex amino acids (we call them “aromatic amino acids”) in a small biochemical pathway called the “Shikimate Pathway.” One of the enzymes of that pathway is called “EPSPS” for short. EPSPS is a protein with an atom of manganese that must be there for it to function properly.

As a descaling agent, glyphosate enters the bacterial or plant cells and steals the atom of manganese from the EPSPS enzyme, rendering it unable to synthesize aromatic amino acids. If some of these building blocks are missing, the bacteria and plants can’t synthesize the proteins, and they promptly die.

MOTHER: How heavily is glyphosate used in the United States?

Vrain: When molecular biology and genetic engineering technologies became mainstream in the 1980s, somebody figured out they could engineer agricultural crops to be glyphosate resistant. When we engineer crops to be glyphosate-resistant, farmers can spray them with the herbicide and they’ll survive, even while the unwanted surrounding plants — the weeds — ultimately perish.

A handful of major crops are now glyphosate-resistant. Developers have trademarked them as “Roundup Ready.” The technology has revolutionized weed management in industrial agriculture. In 2013, farmers in the United States used glyphosate-resistant soybeans on 93 percent of all planted soybean acreage, corn on 85 percent of all corn acreage, and cotton on 82 percent of all cotton acreage. These glyphosate-resistant crops are usually sprayed twice at the beginning of the crop cycle with three-fourths to 1-1⁄2 pounds (depending on plant height) per acre. In recent years, many species of weeds have adapted and become resistant, requiring higher and higher dosages of glyphosate to be killed.

The use of glyphosate for chemical drying of non-engineered grain and seed crops has also grown exponentially in the past 15 years. This is not widely known. Some farmers who grow grains and seeds (such as cereals, beans, sunflowers, and hemp) now commonly spray a formulation of glyphosate to kill their crops just before harvest. This process also kills any weeds that might have popped up during the growth of the crop. This is called “chemical drying” or “dessication.” It makes for a much easier harvest of grains and seeds.

MOTHER: What are the current allowable amounts of glyphosate in food and water, and how do they compare to the levels at which scientists are detecting harmful effects?

Vrain: We know very little about the residual amounts of glyphosate in food crops for human and animal consumption. Most other pesticides and herbicides are closely monitored by government agencies in Canada and the United States, but for some reason glyphosate residues have not been monitored closely. What we do know is that the legal levels allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency and Health Canada have increased significantly in the past few years — presumably to accommodate the new reality. The allowable levels are now well above parts per million (ppm). Every single crop has allowable levels: sugar at 10 ppm, soybean and canola at 20 ppm, cereals at 30 ppm, nongrass animal feed at 400 ppm. Residue levels that were once considered extreme are now seen as normal.

A large number of published scientific studies — mostly done outside the United States — show that as little as 1 ppm of glyphosate will kill almost all bacteria — particularly beneficial bacteria — in the gut of animals; that endocrine disruption starts at 0.5 ppm; and that even just a few ppm can cause oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, DNA damage, and many other disruptions in mammalian organ cells and tissues. Last year, the World Health Organization asked an international team of 17 senior toxicologists from 11 countries to review the status of several agricultural chemicals, including glyphosate. Their verdict regarding glyphosate’s toxicity was that the scientific literature contains enough convincing evidence to classify it as a probable carcinogen.

MOTHER: Monsanto, the company that owned the glyphosate patent, claims that humans can digest glyphosate in our food and water and it won’t accumulate in our bodies. Is this true?

Vrain: Recent scientific studies clearly show that glyphosate doesn’t degrade easily in soil or in humans and animals. A German study suggests that glyphosate accumulates in all organs (liver, kidneys, intestines, heart, lungs, bones, and so on) of animals and people eating food products made from Roundup Ready crops.

Monsanto and the North American government regulatory agencies have promoted glyphosate as the safest herbicide for 40 years. It was assumed at the time of its registration that it couldn’t affect animals because the Shikimate Pathway (where it impairs protein synthesis) is present in plants and bacteria but not in animals. However, the past 10 years have brought enormous progress in our understanding of the pre-eminent role of the microbiome in animal physiology. In humans, it turns out that the 100 trillion bacterial cells that live in our intestines — and that do contain the Shikimate Pathway — play an absolutely essential role in the health of most of our organs.

MOTHER: We were surprised to learn that glyphosate is also patented as an antibiotic. What are the effects this has on human health and the soil food web?

Vrain: We’ve known for decades that glyphosate is a powerful antibiotic, but it was only patented as one in 2010. I call glyphosate an antibiotic masquerading as an herbicide. Aside from its function as an endocrine disrupter and the multitude of other documented nefarious effects it has on human physiology, I think the most immediate concern about glyphosate’s toxicity is its damaging effect on the human microbiome.

I don’t remember seeing much research on the effects of glyphosate in the soil environment, other than the usual industry-sponsored (and reassuring) results. Plenty of anecdotal evidence, however, shows that damaging soil microbiology leads to slow desertification.

MOTHER: How do you recommend we move forward to prevent this toxic herbicide from causing any more damage?

Vrain: Roundup has become the most successful agricultural chemical in the past 40 years. It’s extremely useful in all kinds of weed-management applications. Because it was originally labeled as innocuous to humans and animals, Roundup has been heavily used, and it’s time to reconsider its place in the market. In light of glyphosate’s toxicity, we must strictly regulate the use of the herbicide Roundup, abandon chemical drying of grain and seed crops, and recall Roundup Ready technology.

How to Avoid Glyphosate

If you’re concerned about glyphosate toxicity, you can follow some basic guidelines when sourcing your food. Steer clear of processed foods and buy ingredients that are either clearly labeledUSDA Certified Organic” or come from a trusted local grower who doesn’t use herbicides. Certified Organic crops can’t be sprayed with glyphosate at any stage of the growing, harvesting, or drying processes, and none of the ingredients in USDA Certified Organic foods are allowed to be genetically engineered. The USDA Certified Organic standards for meat, eggs, and dairy require that livestock are fed 100-percent-organic feed and forage.