Will US research tip the ‘next big things’ in health foods?

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 5th May 2008

Recent US research may indicate the next ‘big things’ in the ever expanding and increasingly popular health foods category:

Fresh squeezed orange juice contains all the health benefits of oranges except one : the cancer protection in the peel. People who regularly consume citrus zest reduce their risk of squamous-cell skin cancer by 30 percent, according to a recent University of Arizona study. Even lab rats live longer on the stuff ; animal studies suggest that citrus zest can actually shrink existing tumors.

Turns out the oils in the peels of oranges, lemons, and grapefruit contain powerful compounds that stimulate the body’s production of a detoxifying enzyme, explains study author Iman Hakim, M.D., Ph.D., who says the results had an impact on her research group. “Several people around here started chewing on citrus peels,” she says.

Another option : Grate the colored portion of the peel and add the pile of zest (at least a tablespoonful) to soups, salads, and salsa, or sprinkle it on chicken and fish.

Green tea grabs all the headlines as a tumor-taming brew, but the white kind surpasses it at preventing colon cancer. When researchers at Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute tested the two teas’ abilities to block colon-polyp growth, the blanc beverage was about 10 percent more effective. In fact, it stopped polyps as effectively as sulindac, a powerful anti-inflammatory drug.

And while prescription anti-inflammatories can cause internal bleeding and ulcers, “tea is pretty much guaranteed not to cause side effects,” says Gayle Orner, Ph.D., the study’s lead author. The study used Exotica white tea ; 3 cups a day may be enough to cut your cancer risk.

Not since lycopene landed in our lives has there been a more promising prostate-cancer-fighting nutrient than whey protein. In a recent Ohio State University study, researchers treated human prostate cells with whey protein and then measured the cells’ levels of a natural cancer-blocking compound called glutathione.

The finding : Glutathione levels rose by a remarkable 64 percent. “Whey is a great source of the amino acid cysteine, and cysteine can become glutathione in the body,” explains Rosemary L. Walzem, R.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Nutrition, Health, and Food Genomics at Texas A&M University.

One of the best sources of whey is yogurt ; a lot of the protein is in the clear liquid on top, so don’t pour it off. You can also pick up powdered whey-protein isolate — vanilla-flavored — and add it to instant oatmeal.

Make every day Christmas and you could slash your risk of several different cancers. Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles have confirmed that cranberries contain a trove of tumor-blocking compounds, including phenolic acids, glycosides, and anthocyanins.

These phytochemicals are effective at preventing cancer down below — in the colon and prostate — as well as up top — on the head and neck. “They force cancer cells to die or they inhibit their unregulated growth,” says David Heber, M.D., Ph.D., a coauthor of the study.

To hit your daily cranberry quota, down a small glass of cranberry juice (the type that lists at least 27 percent juice on the label) at breakfast and snack on Craisins (sweetened dried cranberries) throughout the day.

The nutrient with the coolest name — gamma tocopherol — may also be the one with the fastest draw in a showdown with cancer. When Purdue University researchers pitted this form of vitamin E against prostate- and lung-cancer cells, they discovered that it was able to stop the cells in their microscopic tracks.

What’s more, gamma tocopherol helped kill existing tumor cells without hurting healthy cells, says Qing Jiang, Ph.D., the study’s lead author.

But what about the research showing that vitamin E supplements are worthless, and perhaps even dangerous ? Doesn’t apply to gamma tocopherol, since it isn’t included in most E supplements.

Instead, you’ll find it in sesame oil, which you can substitute for other cooking oils or sprinkle over salads. Or, if you want a source you can sink your teeth into, munch on walnuts.