Phytochemicals in fresh apples have been shown to inhibit human liver and colon cancer cell growth
An apple a day can help keep breast cancer away, according to a study in rats by food scientists at Cornell University.
"We found that tumor incidence was reduced by 17%, 39%, and 44% in rats fed the human equivalent of 1, 3, or 6 apples a day, respectively, over 24 weeks," says Rui Hai Liu, Cornell associate professor of food science and lead author of the study.
The Cornell researchers treated a group of rats with a known mammary carcinogen and then fed them either whole apple extracts or control extracts. Liu, who said this is the first study of the effects of apples on cancer prevention in animals, also found that the number of tumors was reduced by 25%, 25%, and 61% in rats fed, respectively, the equivalent of 1, 3, or 6 apples a day.
The report appears in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
In an article in the journal Nature 5 years ago, Liu and his colleagues credited phytochemicals -- antioxidants -- in fresh apples with inhibiting human liver and colon cancer cell growth. Antioxidants help prevent cancer by mopping up cell-damaging free radicals and inhibiting the production of reactive substances that could damage normal cells.
"Studies increasingly provide evidence that it is the additive and synergistic effects of the phytochemicals present in fruits and vegetables that are responsible for their potent antioxidant and anticancer activities," Liu said.
Choose foods over supplements
"Our findings suggest that consumers may gain more significant health benefits by eating more fruits and vegetables and whole grain foods than in consuming expensive dietary supplements, which do not contain the same array of balanced, complex components," said Liu.
He noted the thousands of phytochemicals in foods vary in molecular size, polarity, and solubility, which could affect how they are absorbed and distributed in different cells, tissues, and organs. "This balanced natural combination of phytochemicals present in fruits and vegetables cannot simply be mimicked by dietary supplements," he explained.
Furthermore, Liu noted the health benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables extend beyond lowering the risk of developing cancers and cardiovascular diseases to include preventive effects for other chronic diseases, such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, central neurodegenerative disease, and diabetes.