By Amanda Froelich,
An apple a day is known to keep the doctor away, but consuming more of this fruit in general has now been shown to inhibit the growth of Cancer as well. According to recent studies, the natural compound called oligosaccharides, derived from apples, killed up to 46% of human colon cancer cells invitro, and outperformed the most commonly used chemo drugs. Compared to toxic mainstream treatment, Oligosaccharides are natural, health-promoting compounds widely present in fruits and vegetables.
A Natural Solution for a Leading Cause of Cancer Death?
Because colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death for women worldwide, and the third-leading cause for men, this finding is especially important to help curb the preventative epidemic. The standard-of-care chemo drug used for colon cancer has seen limited success, and also has a depressing list of serious side effects: coronary spasm, neurotoxicity, anemia, and immunosuppression. Researchers decided to focus on apples as a natural means of treating cancer because the fibrous option is the most widely consumed fruit in many countries; apples have also already demonstrated anti-cancer activity against breast cancer, ovarian cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer, and colon cancer. Further more, oligosaccharides can cheaply be derived from apple pomace – a widely available waste product left over from the apple juice processing industry,.
Conducted by University researchers in Xi’an, China, polysaccharides (pectin and other fibers) were isolated from apple pomace and then were treated with natural pectinase to break down their molecules into smaller oligosaccharides (which only have three to ten sugar unites per molecule). These smaller oligosaccharides were then added to cultured human HT29 colon cancer cells at various concentrations, and compared with the most commonly used chemo drug for colon cancer.
Surprising to many, for every concentration tested, the oligosaccharides outperformed the chemo drug at inducing programmed cell death (apoptosis). One example shows that at just 0.9 micrograms per mL (about 0.9 PPM), oligosaccharides killed 17.6 percent of the colon cancer cells after 36 hours, while the chemotherapy drug killed only 10.9 percent (at a higher concentration of 1.3 micrograms per mL).
Most importantly, because the apple oligosaccharides are non-toxic to healthy cells, they can be used at higher concentrations than possible with the chemo drug. At 9.0 PPM, the oligosaccharides killed 46 percent of the colon cancer cells (the chemotherapy drug was not tested at this level).
Oligosaccharides have recently gained attention as health-promoting functional foods, and are likely already used to enrich several foods you already eat (i.e. as fructo-oligosaccharides). This derivative of the food has been found to promote healthy intestinal flora, control blood sugar, and modulate the immune system.
Naturally occurring in many plant foods (fruits, vegetables, algae) and even in raw honey and milk, this finding supports the recommendation for every individual to consume more fresh produce per day. Oligosaccharides can also be formed by breaking down the fruit’s more complex carbohydrates (i.e. pectin) by pectolytic enzymes, as was done by researchers in this study.
To some extent this reaction may occur when one naturally consumes the raw fruit, since apples contain about 1.5 percent pectin as well as pectinase enzyme. However, it should be noted that most commercially processed apple juices contain virtually no pectin or active enzymes. And because pasteurized market products are processed to an extent and are high-heated, they also contain only about 10 percent of the health-giving polyphenols compared to raw apples. As usual, eating fresh and raw is far healthier than consuming the processed versions.
This new study adds further evidence to the health-promoting effects of apples and the potent anti-cancer of their oligosaccharides, even at low concentrations. Because these oligosaccharides can be derived from a widely available waste product of the apple juice industry (about four million tons of pomace are produced annually), it is promising a low-cost, natural alternative medicine may be made available in the future.