- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2007

CHICAGO (Agence France-Presse) — An antioxidant found in blueberries and grapes may offer protection against colon cancer, says a small study on rats that suggests the humble berry should be added to the list of cancer-fighting superfoods.

Researchers suspect the cholesterol-lowering action of the berry antioxidant pterostilbene, which reduced pre-cancerous lesions in rats, is key given the link between colon cancer and Western diets high in saturated fats and calories.

The compound also reduced colonic cell proliferation and inhibited certain genes involved in inflammation, both of which are considered colon-cancer risk factors, the researchers reported in a paper published Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Chicago.

“This study underscores the need to include more berries in the diet, especially blueberries,” said Bandaru Reddy, a professor in the department of Chemical Biology at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

In the study on rats, the pterostilbene appeared to give the animals a measure of protection against colon cancer.

All 18 rats were given a compound to induce colon cancer in a manner similar to human colon-cancer development.

Nine of the rodents were then placed on a balanced diet, while the remaining ones were given the same diet with a supplement of the berry antioxidant pterostilbene.

At the end of eight weeks, the rats on pterostilbene had 57 percent fewer pre-cancerous lesions in their colon in comparison with the control group.

Further studies are needed to establish exactly what the compound does.

Separately, researchers at Ohio State University said they had begun clinical trials on humans to determine whether blueberries could prevent the development of esophageal and colon cancer.

In experiments on rats whose diet was 5 percent to 10 percent berries, the rats had a 60 percent reduction of tumors of the esophagus and up to an 80 percent reduction in colon tumors.

A third study suggested that chemicals found in grape-seed extract may protect against skin cancer by inhibiting the suppression of the immune system caused by ultraviolet light exposure, University of Alabama researchers said.

The finding was based on test-tube experiments with mice cells.

On a related note, Californian researchers reported that organic produce does offer greater health benefits.

In a comparison of organically grown kiwis with traditionally grown kiwis, the organic fruit had significantly increased levels of polyphenols, a higher overall antioxidant level and higher levels of vitamin C.

Both sets of kiwis were grown next to each other on the same farm at the same time in the same environmental conditions, said researchers at the University of California at Davis.

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