Chlorophyll, the most ubiquitous plant pigment in the world, may protect our DNA against mutation by intercepting carcinogens.
Eating Green to Prevent Cancer,
Images thanks to: Gigillo83 and Jynto via Wikimedia Commons.
Why do people who eat more plants get less cancer? We've talked about some phytonutrients that can act as antioxidants to douse free radicals, how some can boost our liver's own detoxification enzymes, and some that even boost our DNA repair enzymes to patch-up any damage done. But twenty two years ago the interceptor molecule hypothesis was postulated. Serving as a first line of defense interceptors bind to mutagens and carcinogens and thereby block them from coming in contact with our DNA.
Many carcinogens, shown here in blue, have a flat ring system narrow enough to slip into the spine of our DNA causing mutations, but if the interceptors glom onto the carcinogen first, it may no longer fit. So the search was on, combing for the existence of carcinogen-binding molecules, and in 2007 we discovered one such amazing molecule was … chlorophyll! The most ubiquitous plant pigment in the world, that which makes dark green leafy vegetables dark green.
In subsequent years, the ability of chlorophyll to “totally abolish” DNA damage of human cells exposed to carcinogens was documented in a petri dish, but what we really need is to see if it works in people, but you can’t just give people carcinogens—unless, you pay them enough. “Effects of Chlorophyll on Low-Dose Aflatoxin in Human Volunteers.”
They had people drink a solution of radioactive aflatoxin, the carcinogen that used to be a problem in peanut butter, with or without spinach chlorophyll . Here’s the big spike in their blood stream of aflatoxin without spinach in their stomach, and this is with. Apparently the chlorophyll bound to the aflatoxin and preventing its absorption into their systems. “In sum, these studies provide substantial evidence that chlorophylls can strongly inhibit uptake of aflatoxins in the whole animal,” which in this case, was us.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.
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For more on the antioxidant mechanism, see Antioxidant Power of Plant Foods Versus Animal Foods. For boosting our liver's ability to detoxify carcinogens, see The Best Detox, and for boosting our DNA repair enzymes,Kiwifruit and DNA Repair. These are but a few of the various beneficial roles played by Phytochemicals: The Nutrition Facts Missing From the Label, and it's not just the green pigments. There are the yellow ones, orange ones, red ones, and blue ones. Sounds like a Dr. Seuss book! That's it for volume 10—thanks for everyone's continued interest in my work. Volume 11 starts tomorrow!
For some context, please check out my associated blog post: Eating Green to Prevent Cancer
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