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Berries as Cancer Fighters

A large body of research suggests that berries may be among the most potent cancer-fighting fruits.

The main berries being researched include black and red raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and elderberries. Although blueberries have numerous health benefits, they do not appear to have the same cancer-fighting properties as other berries, researchers say.

Berries contain a number of healthful compounds including vitamins A, C, E and folic acid; selenium; calcium; polyphenols; and compounds called anthocyanins, which give berries their colour.

While berries, particularly raspberries, look like a promising super food, many people may not find it practical to eat them on a regular basis. Another concern is whether variations in climate and growing techniques may alter the concentration of the beneficial compounds found in the fruit.

Although frozen berries can substitute for fresh ones when they are out of season, the fruits are expensive and may be too costly for most people to eat daily. As a result, researchers are trying to identify the key ingredients that make berries cancer fighters.

In a study published this month in Cancer Prevention Research, scientists compared rats which ingested a diet of whole black raspberries or a concentrated powder of black raspberry anthocyanins, to rodents which ate a regular diet.

The study found that the anthocyanin powder worked just as well as whole raspberries for slowing tumour growth. Both groups of rats consuming either whole berries or anthocyanin powder developed 50% fewer oesophageal tumours compared to untreated rats.

"We're quite encouraged by that," said Gary Stoner, professor emeritus and former head of the Cancer Prevention Programme at Ohio State University. "It's not total inhibition, but it was pretty substantial. It tells us the anthocyanins in the berries are pretty important and they are deserving of more research."

Although the verdict on berries as cancer fighters is still out, Dr Stoner said more people could benefit by eating them. Studies already show people with diets high in fruits and vegetables are healthier.

Dr Stoner added that frozen berries are a good option as they will not spoil as easily as fresh ones, can be eaten all year round and are often cheaper than fresh berries.

New York Times

Source: The Straits Times


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