Is there such a thing as a super-fruit? The word is used so indiscriminately these days, you may wonder if it means much.
Well, it does. There really are super-foods.
And today I want to draw your attention to a special one. It will reduce your risk of cancer, and it’s a fun, candy-like sweet treat to put out during this week between Christmas and New Year’s, when most of the sweet treats we’re tempted to eat don’t prevent cancer — they do the opposite.
Here’s your healthy holiday snack (hint: the color is even appropriate to the season). . .
The natural compounds in pomegranates have been proven to defend your DNA from damage linked to cancer. They contain substances that support the health of mitochondria — those microscopic energy producers that keep cells functioning properly.
And pomegranate also contains specialized chemicals that can spell death for cancer cells.
You may have tried the heavily promoted pomegranate juice, but shied away from the fruit because it’s strange and you don’t know what to do with it. Here’s a quick, easy guide. . .
Most people don’t eat the skin or pulp – although you can (more on this in a minute). Most people go straight for the bright red seeds called arils. They’re like sweet little pieces of candy – except they’re good for you.
The whole fruit is somewhat like a large onion. You cut it in half, then quarter it, and this makes it easy to get out the scores of ruby-red arils inside. They’re a bit smaller than a kernel of corn. Eat ‘em up just the way they are. They’re delicious. A perfect solution when you’re craving some holiday candy or another piece of pie.
Having said that, I have a surprising fact for you: the juice is better for you than the unprocessed arils. Keep reading, and I’ll explain. . .
How to reap the maximum anti-cancer benefits
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin believe that studies showing the anti-cancer benefits of pomegranate have been a little slow to ramp up because the fruit is native to the Middle East and Asia. Western scientists weren’t familiar with it and didn’t take it seriously – though even the ancients believed in its “extraordinary medicinal powers.”1
Investigations into the natural cancer-fighting compounds in pomegranate show that much of its power is in the peel. This part of the fruit is rich in polyphenols, chemicals that are powerful antioxidants and that fight inflammation linked to cancer.2
One particular polyphenol found in the peel, called punicalagin, has been shown, all by itself, to produce more than half of pomegranate’s antioxidant benefits.3
Since the peel is used in making pomegranate juice, drinking this juice may be better for anti-cancer benefits than eating the fruit.
As you drink pomegranate juice, punicalagin and other similar chemicals are processed by your digestive tract, resulting in the creation of ellagic acid. This well-known anti-cancer nutrient (also found in raspberries) enters the bloodstream from the intestines.
Besides that, some of the ellagic acid is acted on by the probiotic bacteria in the colon to form healthy nutrients that also find their way into the bloodstream.
All these healthy nutrients – and more besides — stick around for a long time to help the body resist cancer. In some cases researchers have found evidence of their presence in circulation up to two days after people drank pomegranate juice.
How long they persist may be linked to the particular kinds of bacteria you have living in your intestines. Researchers are still analyzing the question.
Fight cancer at least seven ways
When researchers look into how pomegranate can protect us against cancer, they find that it produces myriad effects that slow the development and growth of cancer cells. Pomegranate’s polyphenols:
- Interfere with the way cancer cells reproduce.
- Induce cancer cells to self-destruct (the process called apoptosis).
- Inhibit the creation of blood vessels that provide cancer cells with nutrients.
- Slow the spread of cancer cells into other parts of the body after a tumor has formed in an organ.
- Protect DNA from malfunctioning in ways that make you more prone to cancer.
- Provide antioxidant protection that limits cellular and mitochondrial damage.
- Lower inflammation that would otherwise increase your cancer risk.
Now, I don’t have room here to delve deeply into all of these anti-cancer mechanisms. But I’ll give you a glimpse at some of the most intriguing research.
Give your DNA a bodyguard
Pomegranate provides a complicated collection of nutrients whose antioxidant properties allow it to protect DNA from damage. And while no one is quite sure how these chemicals work together to keep DNA in working order, researchers have shown that the protection they provide as a group is greater than the sum of their parts.
A study at the University of California investigated chemical synergy among all of pomegranate’s antioxidant polyphenols. The researchers found that the most efficient way to harness this benefit is to drink pomegranate juice. Other types of pomegranate extracts were less effective, according to the researchers, than the pure pomegranate juice sold at the supermarket.4
In addition, researchers have shed light on how pomegranate can stifle inflammation that can set off processes that lead to the formation of tumors.
For instance, it’s been well-established that when your colon is inflamed, as it is when you develop ulcerative colitis, you’re more likely to fall victim to the growth of colon cancer cells. And as the inflammation increases, the inflamed cells send out chemical signals that spread the inflammation to more and more of the cells in the intestinal wall.
When colon cells are in this stressed condition, their genetic material – their DNA – begins to behave in ways that can lead to the uncontrolled growth of tumors.
But the chemicals in pomegranate produce a competing signal that shuts down this inflammatory cell-signaling process. The compounds in pomegranate act as a molecular stop sign that warns the cells not to be so fast to indulge in inflammation.
In particular, pomegranate can inhibit the behavior of a substance you may have heard of called cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). COX-2 causes inflammation. It’s one of the molecules that many drug-company NSAIDs try to neutralize.
Under normal circumstances, if the body needs to heal itself, COX-2 comes in handy and signals to cells that they need to do something – like increasing reproduction – that can help close up wounds and deal with infections.
But when COX-2 levels increase for no good reason, they promote inflammation that serves no healing purpose and warps cellular growth.
Pomegranate is invaluable for calming down this process. One test showed it can reduce the production of COX-2 by about 80%.5 Don’t tell the FDA, but pomegranate juice might be a good replacement for aspirin and ibuprofen.
Healthy, glowing skin
When it comes to skin health, pomegranate’s effects are particularly intriguing because the fruit can help your skin look better AND lower your risk for skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US. More than three million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed every year (although nearly all of them are non-life-threatening basal cell carcinomas.)
Lab research shows that pomegranate’s antioxidant compounds prevent the harmful oxidation (free radical damage) in skin that’s exposed to the ultraviolet rays in sunshine.6
This antioxidant protection can both fend off skin cancer and defend against unsightly sun damage that makes you look older. The researchers also point out that it protects the DNA in skin cells from oxidative damage that can be irreversible once it occurs.
All of these benefits are why I think pomegranate is a super-fruit: Its health protection extends from your skin right down to your innermost organs.
And its benefits are as close as the pomegranate juice you can buy in the supermarket. My only quibble with pomegranate fruit or juice is that they’re very sugary. And while the sugar comes in a healthy package, I think it might not be a wise choice for someone who actually has cancer and needs to cut carbs as much as possible.
Think of pomegranate as cancer prevention – but maybe not treatment.
Meanwhile, there’s a new ray of hope for treating pancreatic cancer. If you missed this news in our last issue, we’re running it again below. . .
Fighting Pancreatic Cancer… With a Sponge
Two of the most frightening and disturbing words in any language have got to be pancreatic cancer. Although survival rates are improving, this form of cancer is still widely seen as a death sentence.
The disease has been in the news a lot recently, having taken the lives of some beloved heroes and icons like actor Patrick Swayze… Apple CEO Steve Jobs… opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti… and many others, all just in the past decade.
Steve Jobs had essentially unlimited money, sought out the very best care in the world, had his genome mapped (hugely expensive at the time he did it), and even obtained a liver transplant (not easy to do). He still didn’t make it.
Because the outlook is so poor, a pancreatic cancer diagnosis is extremely distressing, even more so than other types of cancer. It’s the fourth leading cause of death by cancer in the US, even though few people come down with it compared to lung, breast, or prostate cancer.
It’s difficult to treat. Symptoms often don’t start to appear until after it has metastasized. And as you may know, the chance of surviving metastatic cancer is much lower than the chance of surviving early-stage cancer.
The organ’s location in the body makes it hard to reach, and traditional treatment does extreme damage to all surrounding tissue.1
In short, the prognosis is grim. What can you do? There’s something new in the works. Unfortunately it may be a while before patients have access to it, but it’s important news I want to share. . .
Here’s Real Bladder Relief
A sponge from the sea contains a secret weapon
that can aid in the battle against pancreatic cancer.
Genetics are a peculiar thing. As complex as the human organism is… as complicated a machine as the human body is… you may be surprised to know that many of the same genes found in the human body can also be found in sea sponges that have lived at the bottom of the ocean for more than 600 million years.
Thanks to the similarities in our genetic structures, scientists are able to utilize some of the natural compounds found in these sponges and apply them to human subjects for treatment of disease.
Off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, researchers at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute have found a new form of sponge which contains a compound that may be effective against this dreaded form of cancer.
How does a sponge fight cancer?
This sponge contains leiodermatolide, a natural product with some impressive cancer-fighting abilities.
The compound may be a survival mechanism unique to this species of sponge, one that keeps it from being eaten by predators or strengthens it against the elements. Natural byproducts like these often confer an edge in the battle for survival.
This compound is being discussed for use in treating many forms of human cancer, and specifically pancreatic cancer. Using even extremely small doses of leiodermatolide has been shown to block the division of pancreatic cancer cells and inhibit their growth.
Here’s how it works:
This compound is cytotoxic, which means it’s toxic to cells.
It is also antimitotic, meaning it disrupts cellular division by interfering with microtubules. These are the structures that pull a cell apart during its division into two daughter cells (the process called mitosis).
The cytotoxic and antimitotic properties of leiodermatolide are specific to cancer cells, and even more specifically, the cell lines found in pancreatic cancer. They aren’t generally toxic to healthy cells.
Not only does this compound stop cancer cells from multiplying and program them to die off, but it can actually reduce the size and weight of a pancreatic cancer tumor.
There’s more good news: Leiodermatolide also shows selective cytotoxicity towards skin, colon and breast cancer cells.2
Leiodermatolide vs. Gemcitabine
Currently, the treatment for pancreatic cancer consists of major surgery followed by chemo and radiation therapy, if the disease is caught early.
In advanced stages, after the cancer has spread from the pancreas to other organs or into the blood, surgery will do more harm than good, so a regimen of drugs is used instead.
In these cases, curing the disease is no longer the goal. The idea is to extend the lifespan in as comfortable a way as possible.
One of the most commonly used chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer is Gemcitabine.
Like other chemotherapy drugs, Gemcitabine is cytotoxic and antimitotic— it attacks cells that are rapidly dividing and halts the division, causing the cells to kill themselves.
But the drug doesn’t discriminate between cancer cells and normal rapidly dividing body cells, such as hair follicles or cells of the mouth, skin and stomach. It is this inability to differentiate between cells that leads to unpleasant side effects like hair loss, mouth sores and nausea.3
In contrast, leiodermatolide does choose which cells to attack, which may greatly reduce the unwanted side effects. We don’t know that for sure, as the sponge extract has been tested on cells cultured in the lab, and some studies have been conducted on mice, but none yet on humans.
Like certain chemotherapy drugs, leiodermatolide stops cancer cells from dividing by interrupting the activity of microtubules. Once the microtubules stop pulling the cells apart, they assume their work is done and reprogram themselves to die, the natural cell death called apoptosis, which you want to see in cancer cells.
Taxol is another common antimitotic drug used for the same purpose.
But like most chemotherapy drugs, Taxol is also a poison… the body does not want it around. Taxol inflames the vein into which it’s injected, and can cause serious tissue damage if it escapes the vein. The list of precautions even for administering the drug is exhaustive.
Many people experience severe allergic reactions to Taxol, and must take a battery of extra medications to combat these side effects.4
Results so far indicate leiodermatolide achieves the same function of disrupting microtubules, but through an entirely different means of activity and without the irritation or allergic reactions. The exact reason for the response is unknown, but encouraging nonetheless.5
When will this be available for use?
The Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University has been granted a patent on its process of extracting leiodermatolide from sea-sponges. The initial results have been exciting enough to create some buzz in the cancer world. The researchers involved are hoping to see the compound’s use in the near future.
How near that future will be is hard to say, because, having patented the process, it’s most likely the aim is to develop an expensive pharmaceutical drug that will have to be put through the FDA’s wringer of human studies. The approval process may take years.
Assuming human trials are successful, I’m hoping that an enterprising supplement company will circumvent the medical-industrial complex and bring this natural substance to market soon, and at a low price. The molecule itself can’t be patented. The FAU people have patented the extraction process. They probably can’t tie up rights to the leiodermatolide molecule itself.
But it appears that, one way or another, there may finally be a treatment that’s helpful against pancreatic cancer. That’s cause for rejoicing during this Christmas season. The question is how long we’ll have to wait, and how much we’ll have to pay.
The mysteries of the sea…
Hats off to the scientists at the oceanographic institute. They’ve done some exciting work. I hope they prove me wrong and make this remedy available to suffering people soon, at the price of a sponge, not the price of gold bullion mined on one of the moons of Jupiter.
I realize their explorations and research were not free. But they are presumably a public institution – the taxpayers paid for their work — and profiteering off the discovery is unbecoming (to put it nicely).
Funny how the “nonprofit” sector in our society makes so much money, pays the highest salaries, has the best benefits… but I wander off the subject…
Every expedition that travels farther into the depths sends back news of fascinating life forms, often sporting a kaleidoscopic array of colors and strange shapes. If private companies want to pay for this wonderful science, then they can reap the rewards. If the public pays, I think we need a different social contract.
In re-reading this article I think I may have left the impression that pancreatic cancer is more hopeless than it is. This is because I was talking mostly about conventional treatments. If you or someone you love is suffering from this type of cancer, there is some hope, but I think the best place to find it is at one of the alternative clinics we recommend. These doctors can treat you with whole body hyperthermia, ozone therapy, intravenous vitamin C, laetrile or mistletoe extract – and a whole variety of other treatments you can’t do yourself at home.
If you’re not familiar with alternative cancer clinics, the best source of information – and this may not sound humble, but it’s true – is our series of books, America’s Best Cancer Doctors, German Cancer Breakthrough, and our guide to the Mexican clinics, The Amish Cancer Secret.