New evidence confirms this
tomato nutrient is a lifesaver
November 27th, 2016 by Holly Cornish
For a long time, I’ve been arguing that mainstream science has been overlooking a particularly important nutrient that’s been proven to help fight cancer.
And the argument has mostly fallen on deaf ears.
But recently, without much fanfare, it seems that researchers are starting to appreciate the potency of this natural chemical. As a result, a growing number of the folks in lab coats are joining the effort to unravel the anti-cancer secrets of this substance.
Thanks to their findings, lycopene, the carotenoid pigment that gives tomatoes and watermelons much of their red hue, may soon be recognized as an important weapon against cancer.
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Lycopene is one of the most powerful antioxidants you can consume — but not in the form in which it is found in tomatoes, watermelon and other produce.
You see, the relatively large molecules that compose lycopene in your vegetables and fruits are constructed in microscopic straight lines. These are referred to as trans-isomers (Isomers are the various, different geometric constructions of the atoms that make up the molecules in chemicals.)
According to researchers, the form of lycopene that can most effectively zap free radicals in the human body is in a more rounded configuration – what are known as cis-isomers.
How the straight isomers become the rounded types used by the body has puzzled researchers. But studies now indicate that the digestive system takes the straight-line lycopene you swallow in food and converts it to the rounded, more beneficial form with the help of stomach acid.1
However, researchers also believe that if the acidity of your stomach is too low, the conversion of lycopene to its more powerful antioxidant form may not be very efficient – another reason not to take medications that reduce your stomach acid.
Clobbers free radicals
Studies of the antioxidant powers of lycopene in the body have produced astounding results.
Consider how lycopene can deal with what is known as singlet oxygen, a particularly harmful oxidative free radical that can injure cell membranes, distort genetic material and oxidize amino acids (protein building blocks).
While many other antioxidants can vanquish only a few free radical molecules at a time and then have to be restored to their original state before performing more antioxidant tasks, scientists have shown one molecule of lycopene can disarm about 1,000 molecules of singlet oxygen.2 The reason is that lycopene rebounds back to its active form almost instantly after disarming a free radical.
This ability makes it the single most effective antioxidant among all the carotenoids found in plants.3
Support group for glutathione and SOD
Aside from its role as an antioxidant, lycopene also spurs the body to ramp up its production of its own antioxidant defenses that can keep cells and their structures from being damaged. As researchers put it, lycopene “upregulates” the body’s “antioxidant response element.”
What they mean is that with the help of lycopene the cells produce more cellular enzymes like superoxide disumutase (SOD), quinone reductase and glutathione S-transferase which can all fend off attack by free radicals.4 (In technical terms, these are known as “cytoprotective” enzymes.)
Long-time readers of this newsletter know that superoxide dismutase and glutathione are enormously powerful antioxidants that our own bodies make – especially if we give the body the nutrition it needs.
Activating an activator
These protective enzymes result from lycopene stimulating a protein called Nrf2, which constantly travels in out of a cell’s nucleus (where the genetic material is contained) and in and out of the cell to keep track of a cell’s health and how it is functioning. Of all the carotenoids found in plants, lycopene has been shown to be the most active in increasing levels of Nrf2.
When a cell is confronted with toxins, free radicals or some other circumstance that threatens its well-being, Nrf2 speeds up its activity, moving more quickly, and starts calling for the cell to accelerate its production of antioxidants.
According to research5 at the University of Warwick Medical School, in England, it is not only toxins or an oxidative threat that leads Nrf2 to speed up its movement. While Nrf2 usually takes more than two hours to move in and out of a cell, a substance like lycopene cuts this cycle time down to about 80 minutes, boosting Nrf2’s ability to survey the cell’s micro-environment.
“The way Nrf2 works is very similar to sensors in electronic devices that rely on continual reassessment of their surroundings to provide an appropriate response,” says researcher Paul Thornalley.
Attacking cancer’s energy source
Aside from these roles in the body, lycopene has now also been shown to eradicate cancer cells by degrading their mitochondria, thereby leading the cells to undergo apoptosis – their own programmed cell death.6
In a study of prostate cancer cells, researchers found that, on the first exposure to lycopene, the mitochondria in the cells start to have trouble functioning. Then their membranes became leaky, releasing proteins from the mitochondria into the cell’s protoplasm. Once those proteins began to stream through the mitochondrial membranes, elimination of the cells via apoptosis was not far behind.7
In addition, other research shows that lycopene can reduce cancer cells’ production of integrins,8 chemicals they need in order to proliferate in the body, stick to tissues and invade organs. The loss of integrins can make tumors less aggressive, less likely to metastasize and slower to spread.
Less risk of cancer, and younger skin to boot
All of these effects of lycopene are probably the reason that a study in England shows that men who eat ten or more helpings of tomatoes a week enjoy an 18 percent lower risk of prostate cancer. The study compared the lifestyle habits and diets of more than 1,800 men aged 50 to 69 who had prostate cancer with more than 12,000 men who were cancer-free.9
“Our findings suggest that tomatoes may be important in prostate cancer prevention,” says researcher Vanessa Er.
Of course, as most researchers do, she still hedges her bets: “However, further studies need to be conducted to confirm our findings, especially through human trials,” she adds. “Men should still eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy weight and stay active.”
Of course, as I’ve often pointed out, I’m personally sold on lycopene.
Oh, and even if it weren’t so great at helping protect your body against cancer, you should get plenty of this nutrient to help your skin and face stay better looking. Research in Germany shows that lycopene helps defend the skin against sun damage and could even keep you from getting wrinkled.10
If you’re looking for more good news from the garden, I hope you didn’t miss last issue’s article about red cabbage. If you did, we’re running it again just below.
An Open Letter to Former
President George H.W. Bush
Dear President Bush,
We all know how much you hate those little tree-shaped veggies called broccoli. You’ve made that abundantly clear.
Back in 1990, when you were President, you let the world know that you refused to eat broccoli – on Air Force One, at the White House, or anywhere else in America. And by all appearances, you haven’t changed your tune in the past 26 years…
We know this because earlier this year a letter from a five-year-old fan named Cooper failed to change your mind. You tweeted, “His declared love of broccoli is genuine, if unpersuasive.”
I guess this has worked for you. You’re 92 years old. Avoiding broccoli didn’t exactly take years off your life.
But may we please suggest you replace it with this other cancer-fighting food? And encourage others to do so?
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A recent study reports that more than half of patients – 62 percent – have colons plugged up with layers of filthy, decayed fecal matter. . .
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Breakthrough study results from the prestigious Department of Organ Surgery and Gastroenterological Clinic in Elsinore, Denmark, reveal that millions of people unknowingly have these large “fecal reservoirs” – which back up your entire colon and rectum.
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Cabbage doesn’t get the fanfare other vegetables do. But it should. Especially if it’s red cabbage.
If you don’t enjoy it, maybe it’s time to try preparing it a different way.
A potent cancer fighter
Cabbage contains many potent anti-cancer substances. One that stands above the rest is glucosinolates that break down into indoles, sulforaphane, and other cancer-preventive substances.
The glucosinolates of cabbage convert to isothiocyanate compounds. These, in turn, prevent many cancers – including cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, and prostate.
Your cell cycle is a rigidly controlled set of steps your cells undergo before they divide into two. Before that final split, a cell must duplicate all its contents, so the two daughter cells are exact clones of the parent.
This means if you can alter specific components of the cell’s cycle, you can keep cancer cells from growing, without killing normal cells.
Sulforaphane – another by-product of glucosinolates – selectively targets cancer stem cells, thereby helping to keep cancer in check.
Certain compounds in cabbage change how your body uses estrogen, which may prevent breast cancer.
Cabbage also boasts powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Can cabbage kill this cancer-triggering pathogen?
In case you haven’t heard, researchers have linked H. pylori with stomach cancer.
Back in the 1800s, cancer surgeons thought stomach cancer was linked to ulcers, citing inflammation and persistent stomach irritation. But no one really understood it.
To make matters worse, before the 1980s, dominant dogma attributed ulcers and gastritis to stress and diet.
That changed in the early 1980s when two Australian scientists noticed that most ulcer patients had H. pylori bacteria. Their claims were dismissed amid the belief that bacteria couldn’t possibly survive in stomach acid.
To prove his point one of the scientists, Barry Marshall, heroically drank a broth containing H. pylori. Sure enough, he quickly got gastritis. Fortunately, that was before antibiotic resistance had become widespread, so he was able to cure himself of his self-induced illness with antibiotics.
Today, it’s widely accepted that H. pylori triggers ulcers and chronic gastritis.
Chinese study reveals a secret link
Meanwhile, other researchers tried to tease out stomach cancer triggers.
In the 1970s, a large South American study showed that long-term stomach inflammation is often associated with stomach cancer. A link, but still no proof of how one caused the other.
But scientists also knew that stomach cancer rates were highest in infection-prone areas.
Finally a 1990 study collected blood samples from Chinese men of all ages living where H. pylori infections were rampant… then matched them to death records. The results were shocking. Stomach cancer deaths were the only cancer deaths related to H. pylori infection.
Today stomach cancer is the second biggest cancer killer worldwide. If you have H. pylori infection, you’re a whopping six times more likely to develop stomach cancer than if you don’t.
What does this have to do with cabbage? Plenty!
Cabbage juice contains a huge amount of vitamin U. Technically it’s not a vitamin… it’s an enzyme called S methylmethionine and sometimes dubbed “cabbagen.”
Vitamin U effectively promotes rapid healing of peptic ulcers.
Cabbage also stimulates your stomach to produce acid. And while you might not think that’s a good thing, it is. Many people have low stomach acid, which it turns out is a hidden cause of digestive issues. Low stomach acid drastically boosts your risk of infections.
So enjoying a few teaspoons of cabbage juice (or better yet, fermented cabbage juice from sauerkraut) before meals can do wonders for your digestion.
Red cabbage or green cabbage?
Not all cabbage is the same. Red cabbage isn’t the same as green. And it’s not just about looks. It’s about nutritional profile.
To be clear, no matter what color cabbage you eat, you can hardly go wrong.
They’re both low in calories, high in fiber and nutrients. Cabbage is ranked fifth on the Environmental Working Group’s list of the “Clean 15” veggies, containing less pesticide residue than other produce.
As vegetables go, cabbage is also pretty inexpensive.
But make note of these differences between red and green.
Red cabbage – or purple or blue depending on soil pH – contains ten times more vitamin A than green cabbage. One cup of chopped red cabbage provides a third of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A. An equal amount of green cabbage only gives three percent.
Vitamin A helps prevent early stage macular degeneration from progressing to blindness. It promotes healthy teeth, skin, tissues, and immune system.
Then there’s vitamin C…
One cup of chopped red cabbage has 51 milligrams, whereas green cabbage only contains 37 milligrams.
Anti-inflammatory nutrients called anthocyanins are only found in red cabbage. They give it the red or purple color. Besides their anti-cancer benefits, these nutrients help improve memory and promote weight loss.
Iron carries oxygen to your cells for energy and DNA synthesis. Your immune system needs it to fight viruses. Most of us don’t need more iron (you should not take iron supplements, for example, unless a blood test shows you need them.) But you do need some iron, and if you don’t eat red meat you need to find vegetable sources for the mineral.
Red cabbage has twice the iron of green cabbage.
But green cabbage outshines red cabbage for vitamin K (for blood clotting and bone density). One cup of chopped green cabbage provides 57 percent of your daily requirements, compared to just 28 percent in red cabbage. Low vitamin K equates to increased risk of hip fracture.
Best ways to prepare cabbage
To get the most from your cabbage, eat it raw or barely cooked (tender-crisp). Otherwise you’ll lose its anti-cancer effects. All cooking methods reduce anthocyanins, glucosinolates and other nutrients. And skip the microwave. It destroys cancer-fighting enzymes.
Cabbage is popular as a primary fermented vegetable. Sauerkraut is an excellent choice, and try to get it unpasteurized, because it will then be rich in probiotics.
Other do’s and don’ts:
- Use firm, undamaged, unblemished heads of cabbage. No limp leaves.
- Buy the whole head – not pre-cut or shredded, as the processing loses nutrients to oxidation.
- Drink your cabbage juice fresh. Don’t refrigerate.
- Limit yourself to four ounces of cabbage juice at once. Best, drink small amounts three times a day on an empty stomach.
- If you have a thyroid disorder, avoid large quantities of cabbage. It can interfere with iodine absorption.
- Rotate the various types of cabbage into your diet for broadest health benefits.
- Cabbage may trigger gassiness in some people.
For a tasty cabbage superfood salad, mix shredded cabbage, chopped kale, carrots, golden beets, orange slices, green onions, Goji berries, raw cashews, sunflower seeds, orange juice, one to two teaspoons sesame oil, sea salt… and sesame seeds for garnish. How much you use of each ingredient is your choice. Enjoy!