Vitality

Eat A Red-Food Diet To Reduce Lung Cancer Risk, Even If You Smoke: Red Peppers, Oranges, More

Researchers discovered in 2004 that beta-cryptoxanthin (BCX), a natural pigment which gives many fruits and vegetables their bright red and orange colorings, was able to reduce smokers' risk of developing lung cancer — although exactly why remained unclear. Now, in a new study, researchers from Tufts University in Massachusetts have uncovered the molecular reasoning for this pigment’s powerful cancer-fighting skills.

Tufts cancer researcher Xiang-Dong Wang and his team found that BCX has the opposite effect of nicotine on lung cells in mice and is able to decrease erratic cell growth in the lung and limit the cancer from spreading. While more research is needed, Wang predicts that understanding BCX’s effect on lung cells could lead to new chemoprevention techniques and could be implemented in dietary recommendations for patients undergoing lung cancer treatment, and for lung cancer survivors.

Read: 3 Reasons Why Non-Smokers Get Lung Cancer

"For smokers, tobacco product users or individuals at higher risk for tobacco smoke exposure, our results provide experimental evidence that eating foods high in BCX may have a beneficial effect on lung cancer risk,” said Wang in a statement.

paprika Peppers aren't just tasty. They may be able to save your life one day. Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Nicotine binds to lung cells, triggering a biochemical response that may lead to erratic cell growth, and new blood vessel development — the perfect storm for lung cancer. However, Wang and his team discovered that BCX is able to counteract this response by inhibiting lung cell growth and preventing cancer cells from spreading to different parts of the body.

In the study, the team observed that mice that had purposely been given a nicotine-derived carcinogen, and which were treated with BCX had fewer lung tumors than those who were not given BCX. According to Wang, the greatest benefit in mice was equivalent to a daily human dose of about 870 micrograms, or the amount contained in one sweet red pepper or a couple of tangerines a day. Also, human lung cancer cells in a petri dish treated with BCX migrated less than those that were not.

The researchers emphasized that their study does not show that BCX has the ability to prevent or cure lung cancer in humans. Still, the results are promising and the team hope to take their research further to better understand the cancer-killing capabilities of red and orange fruits and veggies.

Source:WAng XD, Iskandar AR, Miao B, et al. β-Cryptoxanthin Reduced Lung Tumor Multiplicity and Inhibited Lung Cancer Cell Motility by Downregulating Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor α7 Signaling. Cancer Prevention Research .2016

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