Cranberries vs. Cancer

Cranberries vs. Cancer
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Drug companies and supplement manufacturers have yet to isolate the components of cranberries that suppress cancer cell growth.

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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.

In addition to suppressing liver cancer growth in vitro, cranberries have also been found to have similar effects against human breast, colon, brain tumor, oral, and ovarian cancer cells. Here’s the latest, looking at prostate cancer cell growth. The United States has “the highest rate of prostate cancer” in the world, so let’s try a native American fruit.

Researchers started out with about 50,000 human prostate cancer cells in a petri dish. And, if you do nothing, within a day, you’re closer to 100,000, then 200,000, and then, nearly 400,000 within 72 hours. But, by adding just a smidgen of cranberries, or two smidgens, you can see they block that exponential cancer growth.

The reason they tested such tiny concentrations is that we only absorb a small fraction of the cranberry phytonutrients we eat into our bloodstream. Still, cranberries are cheap. If drug companies and supplement manufacturers are going to capitalize on this, they needed to find cranberries’ active ingredient.

Here’s some of the various phytonutrients in cranberries. So, different fractions were tested against various types of cancer to find the magic bullet. Yes, the anthocyanin phytonutrients inhibit colon cancer cell proliferation about 15%, for example. About the same with the proanthocyanidin fraction. But nothing compared to the total cranberry extract of the whole fruit. There seemed to be “additive or synergistic antiproliferative effects” resulting from the combination of the various components, “compared to individual purified phytochemicals.” So, it’s always better to eat the whole fruit.

How do you do that with cranberries, though? Although 5% of cranberries are sold fresh, the vast majority are consumed as processed products. To get the same amount of anthocyanin phytonutrients in a cup of fresh or frozen cranberries, you’d have to drink 16 cups of cranberry juice cocktail, eat 7 cups of dried cranberries, or 26 cans of cranberry sauce.

The problem is that raw cranberries are so tart that folks may opt for the dried. In a taste test survey, consumers said they wouldn’t mind eating sweetened cranberries every day, whereas raw cranberries sloped down towards maybe once a year. The problem is, dried cranberries tend to come sweetened. Raw cranberries don’t affect your blood sugar, but sweetened dried cranberries do—even the low-sugar varieties.

What about cranberry juice, or shall I say quote-unquote juice? Cranberry cocktail is only about a quarter cranberry juice. The ruby red phytonutrients in cranberries and pure cranberry juice are powerful antioxidants, increasing the antioxidant capacity of our bloodstream within hours of consumption. But, the high fructose corn syrup acts as a pro-oxidant—even if you add vitamin C to it, as they did here— cancelling out some of the cranberry benefit.

So, how do you get the upsides without the down? Check out my pink juice video, where I offer a recipe for making no-sugar-added, whole-fruit cranberry cocktail.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Shaw Girl 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.

In addition to suppressing liver cancer growth in vitro, cranberries have also been found to have similar effects against human breast, colon, brain tumor, oral, and ovarian cancer cells. Here’s the latest, looking at prostate cancer cell growth. The United States has “the highest rate of prostate cancer” in the world, so let’s try a native American fruit.

Researchers started out with about 50,000 human prostate cancer cells in a petri dish. And, if you do nothing, within a day, you’re closer to 100,000, then 200,000, and then, nearly 400,000 within 72 hours. But, by adding just a smidgen of cranberries, or two smidgens, you can see they block that exponential cancer growth.

The reason they tested such tiny concentrations is that we only absorb a small fraction of the cranberry phytonutrients we eat into our bloodstream. Still, cranberries are cheap. If drug companies and supplement manufacturers are going to capitalize on this, they needed to find cranberries’ active ingredient.

Here’s some of the various phytonutrients in cranberries. So, different fractions were tested against various types of cancer to find the magic bullet. Yes, the anthocyanin phytonutrients inhibit colon cancer cell proliferation about 15%, for example. About the same with the proanthocyanidin fraction. But nothing compared to the total cranberry extract of the whole fruit. There seemed to be “additive or synergistic antiproliferative effects” resulting from the combination of the various components, “compared to individual purified phytochemicals.” So, it’s always better to eat the whole fruit.

How do you do that with cranberries, though? Although 5% of cranberries are sold fresh, the vast majority are consumed as processed products. To get the same amount of anthocyanin phytonutrients in a cup of fresh or frozen cranberries, you’d have to drink 16 cups of cranberry juice cocktail, eat 7 cups of dried cranberries, or 26 cans of cranberry sauce.

The problem is that raw cranberries are so tart that folks may opt for the dried. In a taste test survey, consumers said they wouldn’t mind eating sweetened cranberries every day, whereas raw cranberries sloped down towards maybe once a year. The problem is, dried cranberries tend to come sweetened. Raw cranberries don’t affect your blood sugar, but sweetened dried cranberries do—even the low-sugar varieties.

What about cranberry juice, or shall I say quote-unquote juice? Cranberry cocktail is only about a quarter cranberry juice. The ruby red phytonutrients in cranberries and pure cranberry juice are powerful antioxidants, increasing the antioxidant capacity of our bloodstream within hours of consumption. But, the high fructose corn syrup acts as a pro-oxidant—even if you add vitamin C to it, as they did here— cancelling out some of the cranberry benefit.

So, how do you get the upsides without the down? Check out my pink juice video, where I offer a recipe for making no-sugar-added, whole-fruit cranberry cocktail.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Shaw Girl via flickr

Doctor's Note

The whole fruit cocktail of which I spoke is detailed in Pink Juice with Green Foam.

How do cranberries compare to other common fruits? See Which Fruit Fights Cancer Better?

More on nutrient synergy in:

And, for another reason to avoid high fructose corn syrup, see Mercury in Corn Syrup?

Suppressing cancer growth in a petri dish is nice—but what about within the human body? Wait until you see Strawberries vs. Esophageal Cancer and Black Raspberries vs. Oral Cancer. Hold on to your hats!

Check out my associated blog posts for even more context: Which Common Fruit Fights Cancer Better?Anticancer Nutrient Synergy in Cranberries; and Raspberries Reverse Precancerous Lesions.

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