Apple Skin: Peeling Back Cancer

Apple Skin: Peeling Back Cancer
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Apple peels appear to upregulate the tumor suppressor gene maspin, and have strong antiproliferative effects on breast and prostate cancer cell growth in vitro.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Apples themselves are awesome. But, it’s not because of the juice in them, but rather, perhaps, primarily what’s found in the peel. Within the last year, half a dozen studies have touted the benefits of apple peels—for example, this one, in the journal Nutrition and Cancer: “The antiproliferative effects of apple peel extract against cancer cells.”

We know the more apples we eat, the lower our apparent risk of several cancers. The peels are the really good part, yet are often discarded. For example, apple peel is a waste product of dried apple manufacturing. In one little country, Chile, they throw away 9,000 tons of apple peels a year. That’s like 20 million pounds—what a tragedy! 

So, these researchers decided to see what we’re missing. Here are two cell lines of human prostate cancer, and two of human breast cancer, growing merrily away in petri dishes. They’re the little black dots you see. They’re blissfully unaware that researchers at the University of Wisconsin were at Whole Foods, buying some organic Gala apples.

The peels were thrown in a blender, and a tiny bit dripped on the unsuspecting cancer cells. And then, a bit more, and a little more. And, as you can see, by the end, neither the prostate nor breast cancer cells were very happy about it. 

This ain’t chemo; this is just apple peels. How do they work? To obtain a clue regarding the mechanism, they determined the effect of apple peels on the tumor suppressor protein, maspin, inside the cancer cells. Maspin is a tumor suppressor gene that has been shown to have tumor suppressor, anti-angiogenic, and antimetastatic properties in both breast and prostate cancer cells. The tumor cells found a way to turn this tumor suppressor gene off, and apple peels apparently turned it back on. An upregulation of this tumor-suppression gene, as you add more and more of the apple peel extract to each of the cancer types. They conclude “Apple peels may possess strong antiproliferative effects against cancer cells, and [they] should not be discarded from the diet.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to: 427 and jspad via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Apples themselves are awesome. But, it’s not because of the juice in them, but rather, perhaps, primarily what’s found in the peel. Within the last year, half a dozen studies have touted the benefits of apple peels—for example, this one, in the journal Nutrition and Cancer: “The antiproliferative effects of apple peel extract against cancer cells.”

We know the more apples we eat, the lower our apparent risk of several cancers. The peels are the really good part, yet are often discarded. For example, apple peel is a waste product of dried apple manufacturing. In one little country, Chile, they throw away 9,000 tons of apple peels a year. That’s like 20 million pounds—what a tragedy! 

So, these researchers decided to see what we’re missing. Here are two cell lines of human prostate cancer, and two of human breast cancer, growing merrily away in petri dishes. They’re the little black dots you see. They’re blissfully unaware that researchers at the University of Wisconsin were at Whole Foods, buying some organic Gala apples.

The peels were thrown in a blender, and a tiny bit dripped on the unsuspecting cancer cells. And then, a bit more, and a little more. And, as you can see, by the end, neither the prostate nor breast cancer cells were very happy about it. 

This ain’t chemo; this is just apple peels. How do they work? To obtain a clue regarding the mechanism, they determined the effect of apple peels on the tumor suppressor protein, maspin, inside the cancer cells. Maspin is a tumor suppressor gene that has been shown to have tumor suppressor, anti-angiogenic, and antimetastatic properties in both breast and prostate cancer cells. The tumor cells found a way to turn this tumor suppressor gene off, and apple peels apparently turned it back on. An upregulation of this tumor-suppression gene, as you add more and more of the apple peel extract to each of the cancer types. They conclude “Apple peels may possess strong antiproliferative effects against cancer cells, and [they] should not be discarded from the diet.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to: 427 and jspad via flickr

Doctor's Note

What’s wrong with just drinking apple juice? See my last video, Apple Juice May Be Worse Than Sugar Water. Peeling conventionally grown apples does get rid of a significant proportion of the pesticides, but the benefits of eating the peels (even from conventional apples) far outweighs any risk that may come from the pesticide exposure. Of course, one can get all the benefits without the risks by choosing organic—but one should never let pesticide concerns lead one to skimp on fruit and vegetable consumption. To see what a whole diet full of plant foods can do to prostate and breast cancer cell growth, see, respectively: Ex Vivo Cancer Proliferation Bioassay and The Answer to the Pritikin Puzzle. More on the wonders of apples in Dried Apples Versus Cholesterol and Apples & Breast Cancer.

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Dr. Greger’s Natural Nausea Remedy RecipeApple Peels Turn On Anticancer Genes, and Breast Cancer & Alcohol: How Much Is Safe?

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

61 responses to “Apple Skin: Peeling Back Cancer

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  1. Dr Greger, If I juice the apples, with the skin on of course, am I reaping the benefits or does juicing change the antiproliferative effect of maspin?
    Thank you
    Audrey Pellicano




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    1. Dr Don I hope you don’t mind. I found this comment on another video and thought Audrey might find it helpful. I believe Dr Greger has said the whole food is generally best. Don’t we lose the fiber with juicing?

      DrDons Schilly76 • 8 months ago −
      As a general rule when foods are processed(blended) or nutrients are extracted(water, fiber) they are less beneficial. As this video shows there are exceptions to the rule when dealing with complex systems. Garlic needs to be crushed to allow for the mixing of chemicals to liberate an antioxidant that is beneficial. Broccoli is another interesting case see http://nutritionfacts.org/vide…. Cooking is another variable that needs to be considered see video http://nutritionfacts.org/vide…. Since juicing removes fiber it is less beneficial as fiber is a valuable nutrition. Dr. Greger has done 25 videos touching on the value of fiber but you might start with http://nutritionfacts.org/vide….




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      1. This is the first time that I’ve seen a comment that notes that blending food is less beneficial.

        I have green smoothies about every other day. They include almond milk, greek yogurt, LOTS of spinach, a banana, strawberries, blueberries, unpasteurized honey, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. Everything is raw.

        I felt like blending all of these items had no effect on their nutritional content (since they are all whole, raw, and uncooked when they go into a blender). Am I mistaken??? (Lay the truth on me)




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        1. Only in that the question was about juicing not blending. You dump the fiber when you juice. I guess some people save it and use it in cooking.




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        2. Hello,

          Blending too much Spinach raw could pose health risks because of the oxalates. Also, blending is oxidation the greens faster which reduces their nutritional value quickly if not consumed soon. Tata.




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    2. I have a centrifugal juicer and when I juice an apple, a lot of the peel goes into the bin yes, but for for all that the first part of the juice I get is very red, so some of it is going into the juice as well. If you get the seeds and stem out first, you can always collect the juiced fiber from the bin and use it. Personally, I find apple peel very difficult to eat. At least on the typical red apple. Maybe I should try gala apples.




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  2. I like to dry fruit, including apples. Drying apples with the skin on results in a tough and unpleasant texture to the skin. So I peel the apples I intend to dry, save the peel, and use it in my fruit and vegetable smoothies. My Vitamix will wiz that peel down to a liquid and results in a good taste, a nice mouthfeel, and of course, all that nutrition. Caveat: be sure to use organic.

    More generally, if you buy into the concept of whole foods, dump the juicer and invest in a superblender such as Vitamix. Your body will thank you.




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  3. This video was so fun (those poor unsuspecting cancer cells!) and so clear.

    I eat an apple a day during winter. (My dog gets some too.) As a kid, I hated the skin. As an adult, I tolerate it, but don’t like it. So of course we learn that that’s the healthiest part. sigh.




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    1. celticson: You post surprises me. I thought that apple seeds contain significant amounts of arsenic and that one should definitely not eat them. I’m curious why you would advocate eating the seeds. Do you do that yourself? Do you have a link to a study that uses apple seeds? Thanks




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          1. Thea et al., please note: Dr. G reports science and cites refs. What does Eve do “so you don’t have to”? Can you choose wisely?




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  4. Was this study done with organic apples? If so, I wonder if same results will apply with non organic? I try to eat organic apples. But if it is not organic, I wonder if it’s healthier to take the peel off?




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    1. From the description: “the benefits of eating the peels (even from conventional apples) far
      outweighs any risk that may come from the pesticide exposure”




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  5. Cell lines in a petri dish are better than nothing I suppose but may not extend that much to cancer cells in situ. It would be nice to know if the cancer cells were primary cultures or cell lines instead.




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  6. What I do is I thinly slice the apples on a Mandoline slicer leaving the peel on. I then sprinkle cinnamon on the slices and then place them in the oven for about two hours. At the end I have apple chips or crisps and I can easily eat three apples worth without feeling full. It one of my favorite snacks I make, that and sweet potato chips.




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    1. Hey Kip! Great idea. I don’t know if you are raw vegan or not, but wondering about temp. and also do you use lemon or anything to avoid oxydation?




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  7. I start my day with a smoothie made from fresh (mostly organic) fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, protein powder, cinnamon and almond milk. I always include an apple (seeds, peel and all). I look forward to the smoothie every morning because it is so delicious!




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  8. This puts a different spin an earlier video “Dried Apples vs. Cholesterol,” 1/12/12, the problem is it’s hard to find dried apple rings with the skin on. By the way, I’ve heard the same thing about seeds, how could any amount of cyanide be tolerable?




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  9. I don’t remember the last time I peeled my apples — perhaps childhood. Nowadays, all but the core goes into the Vitamix with other fruits. Thanks Dr. Greger, team, and apples. :)




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  10. I follow Dr. Greger’s reviews of the research with great interest so I am very keen to hear his reaction to this research:

    http://life.nationalpost.com/2013/01/10/u-s-failing-in-war-on-cancer-and-antioxidants-superfoods-focus-is-part-of-the-problem-dna-research-pioneer/

    by Dr. Francis Crick concerning the possibly negative influence of antioxidant loading through food intake. It was just a quick read but what I took away from it was that these foods MAY interfere with the action of chemo during treatment.

    I left Stage IIIB Lobular Invasive Carcinoma behind me fifteen years ago after the usual treatment regimen of Slash, Poison, and Burn (for which I am grateful, despite my description of it) but now sustain life and health with a whole plant food, no processed ‘phood’, low fat eating plan. And yes, I DO load up on antioxidants with a home made tea blend of rose hips, hibiscus, fresh ginger, amla, and lemon. I love it and hope that since I no longer take any prescription medication that this concoction is doing me a lot of good and maxing out what I can do to prevent a recurrence.




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    1. I think it’s pretty easy to comment on the given article… Dr. Francis Crick fails to offer a succession of reproducible peer-reviewed scientific studies in support of his contention. Facts trump rhetoric and opinion, every time – regardless of your credentials.




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  11. Good day Dr. Greger,

    I would like to firstly thank you for providing nutritional facts to the general public for creating a deep understanding of dietary and lifestyle improvement and to debunk the food myths the food industry markets heavily to us.

    I do not know whether or not you take video requests. but if so I would greatly appreciate if you did a discussion on phytic acid and its beneficial or detrimental impacts on our system. I have recently found a video by these youtubers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQbBCd22qZM which seems very erroneous to me.

    Thank you for your time.
    R. Shields




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  12. PROCYANIDINS IN THE MOST POPULAR IN POLAND DESSERT APPLE VARIETES
    S u m m a r y
    The contents of major flavan-3-ols : epicatechin, procyanidins: B1, B2, C, oligomeric procyanidins in ethanol extracts of 7 dessert apple varieties (Jonagold, Cortland, Lobo, Idared, Gloster, Champion, Elstar)was measured. The measurement was performed by RP-HPLC. Spectrophotomeric measurements of total polyphenols by Folin-Ciocalteau method and total procyanidins by vanillin test method were alsoperformed.

    The contents of total procyanidins in apple flesh was on level 258-631mg/kg (HPLC), including epicatechin 33-172 mg/kg, procyanidin B1 4-47 mg/kg, procyanidin B2 64-166 mg/kg, procyanidin C1 5-73 mg/kg and oligomeric procyanidins 108-172 mg/kg. For apple flesh the total polyphenols ranged 407-643 mg/kg.

    For apple peel the total procyanidins ranged 701-1445 mg/kg, including epicatechin 156-400 mg/kg, procyanidin B1 14-74 mg/kg, procyanidin B2 185-369 mg/kg, procyanidin C 97-213 mg/kg and oligomeric procyanidins 211-459 mg/kg. For apple peel the total polyphenols ranged from 1573 to 2850 mg/kg. Elstar variety was characterized as the richest in procyanidins, both in apple flesh and in peel.

    Apple peel was shown to be richer in procyanidins than apple flesh. Good correlation between vanillin test and HPLC method for quantifying procyanidins in flesh and in edible part of apple was established.
    source: http://www.pttz.org/zyw/wyd/czas/2006,%202(47)%20Supl/14_Kosmala.pdf




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  13. In cold weather, I tend to make applesauce and eat it warm. I leave the skins on. (If you have diabetes, you can also add lots of cinnamon.) Does anyone know if there is a difference in efficacy between raw and cooked peels?




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  14. Hi there even the organic apples where i live have wax on them, just take a sharp knife and see the white wax flake off, i always peel my apples and sad to do so. :(




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  15. Mother knew best, “An apple a day etc…. I try to eat 2 a day, but often fall short. My fave is Fuji. Sweetest. Not so pretty, so don’t judge a book by it’s cover. I am interested in some info on not eating fruit with other foods. I’ll snoop around your archives, but if you haven’t addressed it yet, would love your opinion. Thanks, Lynn




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  16. “the benefits of eating the peels (even from conventional apples) far outweighs any risk that may come from the pesticide exposure” and “one should never let pesticide concerns lead one to skimp on fruit and vegetable consumption”…

    Really? So children and those with weakened or haywire immune systems should have no concerns about toxic load?

    It’s blanket statements like this from supposed medical professionals that make me angry. Conventional agriculture is slowly making us sick – sometimes not so slowly – and you would have us just go along with being poisoned? You are ignorant.

    http://www.ewg.org




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    1. The point is, if you have a choice between organic candy or conventional apples, you should not consume the andy out of fear of pesticides. The health benifits of the apple far outweight the candy.




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        1. I understand your concerns. The pesticides are worrying, but the primary issue in the United States is lack of fruit consumption. The first priority should be to consume enough fruits and vegetables, as avoiding them due to fear of pesticides will bring more harm then eating a fruit with pesticides. Once we have reached adequate level of consumption, the next hurdle would be to try to buy organic as much possible.




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        2. Eata Mea: Let’s keep NutritionFacts a place for respectful debate.

          ——-
          I thought I would add to Toxins’ excellent reply so you can see that there are hard numbers to back up what he is saying. Consider the following quote from one of Dr. Greger’s blog posts, where he puts pesticide consumption into perspective. :

          “A new study calculated that if half the U.S. population ate just one more serving of conventional fruits and vegetables, 20,000 cases of cancer could be prevented. At the same time the added pesticide consumption could cause up to 10 extra cancer cases. So by eating conventional produce we may get a tiny bump in cancer risk, but that’s more than compensated by the dramatic drop in risk that accompanies whole food plant consumption. Even if all we had to eat was the most contaminated produce the benefits would far outweigh any risks.”

          for more information:
          http://nutritionfacts.org/2013/06/25/apple-peels-turn-on-anticancer-genes/

          Hope that helps.




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  17. I am wondering about the consumption of other edible peels, say of tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers and different varieties of squash. What are the benefits vs. risks of pesticide expose of these foods?




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  18. I ; love apples, but it’s getting hard to find any that aren’t coated with wax (or whatever it is they dip them in).
    Even organically grown apples are often coated. I now peel my apples to avoid eating the coating. Is it safe to eat it? I think it not only adds unwanted chemicals to the diet, apples with this treatment have a mushier texture and less flavor.




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  19. Dr. Greger, In the video the experiment on the petri dish reduced the cancer cells. Has there been any testing done on individuals who have prostrate cancer and who ate apples with the peel? If so, how long did it take to reduce the cancer cells or what was the result. I have slightly elevated Prostate Specific Antigen. With possible infection having been treated, no enlargement of prostrate and scan showing no lesions, will apple help any possible existence or beginning of cancer?




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  20. Dr. Greger, In the video the experiment on the petri dish reduced the cancer cells. Has there been any testing done on individuals who have prostrate cancer and who ate apples with the peel? If so, how long did it take to reduce the cancer cells or what was the result. I have slightly elevated Prostate Specific Antigen. With possible infection having been treated, no enlargement of prostrate and scan showing no lesions, will apple help any possible existence or beginning of cancer?




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    1. His answer is yes. While you can’t wash all the chemicals off because some penetrate the skin, the doc has said several times that the benefits of eating non organic produce far out ways the risks. That’s good enough for me. If they’re available, and more importantly affordable, by all means eat organic. If not, eat ’em anyway, and don’t loose sleep over it.




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