Transcript: Phytates for the Treatment of Cancer
So if the phytates in beans are so successful in preventing cancer, and re-educating cancer cells, let’s put them to the test.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and it arises from neoplastic adenomatous polyps, meaning colon cancer starts out as a benign little bump called a polyp that then grows into cancer that can eventually spread to other organs and kill us. So the National Cancer Institute funded the Polyp Prevention Trial to determine the effects of a high-fiber, high fruit and vegetable, low-fat diet.
They found no significant associations between polyp formation and overall change in fruit and vegetable consumption; however, those with the greatest increase in bean intake only had about a third of the odds of advanced polyps popping up. Yes, it could have been the fiber in the beans, but there’s lots of fiber in fruits and vegetables too. So maybe it was the phytate.
If the tumors do grow, though, they still need to spread. Tumor growth, invasion, and metastasis are multistep processes that include not just cell proliferation, but digestion through the surrounding tissue, and migration through basement membranes to reach the bloodstream before the tumor can establish new proliferating colonies of cancer cells. The first step is to tunnel through the surrounding matrix, considered a critical event in tumor cell invasion. To do this the cancer cells use a set of enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases, which is where phytates may come in. We know phytates inhibit cancer cell migration in vitro, and now we know why. They help block the ability of cancer cells to produce the tumor invasion enzyme in the first place, in both human colon cancer cells, and human breast cancer. Thus, phytates could be used not only in the early promotion state of cancer but also in all stages of cancer progression.
So what happens if you give phytates to breast cancer patients? Although few case studies in which phytates were given in combination with chemotherapy clearly showed encouraging data. Organized, controlled, randomized clinical studies were never done, until now. Fourteen women with invasive breast cancer divided into two randomized groups. One group got extra phytates, the other got placebo. At the end of six months, the phytate group had a better quality of life, significantly more functionality, and fewer symptoms from the chemo, not getting the drop in immune cells and platelets one normally experiences.
And what are the potential side effects of phytates? Less heart disease, less diabetes, and fewer kidney stones. Because cancer development is such an extended process—can take decades to grow, you need cancer preventive agents that you can take long-term, and phytates, naturally occurring in beans, grains, nuts, and seeds fit the bill. Although in the past concerns have been expressed regarding intake of foods high in phytates reducing the bioavailability of dietary minerals, recent studies demonstrate that this co-called “anti-nutrient” can be manifested only when large quantities of phytates are consumed in combination with a nutrient poor diet.
For example there used to be a concern that phytate consumption might lead to calcium deficiency, but in fact researchers discovered the opposite to be true, phytates protecting against osteoporosis. In essence, phytate has many characteristics of a vitamin, contrary to the established and, unfortunately, still existing dogma among nutritionists about its “anti-nutrient” role.
Given the numerous health benefits, its participation in important intracellular biochemical pathways, normal physiological presence in our cells, tissues, plasma, urine, etc., the levels of which fluctuate with intake, epidemiological correlates of phytate deficiency with disease and reversal of those conditions by adequate intake, and safety – all strongly suggest for phytates inclusion as an essential nutrient, perhaps a vitamin. Meanwhile, inclusion of phytates in our strategies for prevention and therapy of various ailments, cancer in particular is warranted. They’re talking about trying out supplements, but of course, eating a healthy diet rich in phytates would always be a prudent thing too.
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 Ariel Levitsky.
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