Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Spice Intake May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

A recently published study has demonstrated that isolated compounds from the spices turmeric (curcumin) and black pepper (piperine) could help prevent breast cancer by limiting the growth of breast stem cells, the small number of cells within tumors that promote a tumor's growth. No effects were seen on normal breast tissue in this cell-culture research study.

I met the lead author for this study, Madhuri Kakarala, M.D., Ph.D., R.D, several years ago as she was starting this research project at The University of Michigan's Comprehensive Cancer Center. I had just begun hearing about cancer stem cells at that time. She explained to me that cancer stem cells are the small number of cells within a tumor that fuel the tumor's growth, and that current chemotherapies do not work against these cells, which is why cancer recurs and spreads. Some cancer researchers are now exploring the relatively new idea that eliminating the cancer stem cells is the key to controlling cancer. In addition, a newly emerging area of thought is that decreasing the number of normal stem cells, which are non-specialized cells that can give rise to any type of cell in that organ, can decrease the risk of cancer.

Dr. Kakarala's important research may lead to less toxic means of breast cancer prevention than use of the current drugs available to high-risk women. In addition, this type of research will hopefully lead to less toxic ways of treating breast cancer plus another strategy for reducing the odds of breast cancer recurrence.

In the meantime, I added some turmeric and black pepper to spice up the potato-leek-kale soup I ate for lunch today! Feel free to make liberal use of all herbs and spices in your cooking, taking advantage of the hundreds if not thousands of molecules in them, and in particular, taking advantage of the health-promoting synergy (1 + 1 > 2) that this study demonstrated when they are used in combination.

Both turmeric and black pepper are often used as spices in the mixture commonly called curry. I have several delicious recipes on my blog that contain curry (use the search function at the top of my blog typing in the word curry). In addition, be adventurous and try adding turmeric or curry to some of your favorite recipes such as soups, salad dressing, or egg dishes for starters. Both sweet curry and hot curry are available to purchase, so experiment, wake up your taste buds with something new, and know that you are helping yourself promote optimal health and wellness, too.

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

No comments: