Apple Extract Kills Colon Cancer Cells Better Than Chemotherapy Drug
Recent studies have discovered that natural compounds called Oligosaccharides, derived from apples, killed up to 46 percent of human colon cancer cells in vitro, and outperformed the most commonly used chemo drug by a wide margin at every dose level tested. And unlike toxic chemo drugs, oligosaccharides are natural, health-promoting compounds widely present in fruits and vegetables.
A NATURAL SOLUTION FOR A LEADING CAUSE OF CANCER DEATH?
Colon cancer is currently the second leading cause of cancer-related death for women worldwide, and the third leading cause for men. The standard-of-care chemo drug used for colon cancer has seen limited success, and can have serious side effects such as coronary spasm, neurotoxicity, anemia, and immunosuppression. Researchers focused on apples as a natural means for treating and preventing colon cancer because they are the most widely consumed fruit in many countries, and have already demonstrated activity against breast cancer, ovarian cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer, and colon cancer. Apple oligosaccharides were used in this study because their anti-cancer properties have been established in previous studies, and they can be cheaply derived from apple pomace – a widely available waste product left over from the apple juice processing industry.
APPLE OLIGOSACCHARIDES ARE MORE EFFECTIVE THAN CHEMO DRUG AT KILLING COLON CANCER CELLS
University researchers in Xi’an, China isolated polysaccharides (pectin and other fibers) from apple pomace and treated them with natural pectinase to break down their molecules into smaller oligosaccharides (which have only three to ten sugar units per molecule). The oligosaccharides were then added to cultured human HT29 colon cancer cells at various concentrations, and compared with the most commonly used chemo drug for colon cancer.
For every concentration tested, the oligosaccharides outperformed the chemo drug at inducing programmed cell death (apoptosis). For example, at just 0.9 micrograms per mL (about 0.9 PPM), oligosaccharides killed 17.6 percent of the colon cancer cells after 36 hours, while the chemo drug killed only 10.9 percent (at a higher concentration of 1.3 micrograms per mL). More importantly, because the apple oligosaccharides are non-toxic to healthy cells, they can be used at higher concentrations than possible with the chemo drug. At 9.0 PPM, the oligosaccharides killed 46 percent of the colon cancer cells (the chemo drug was not tested at this level).
OLIGOSACCHARIDES – FUNCTIONAL FOOD WITH MULTIPLE HEALTH BENEFITS
Oligosaccharides have been gaining increasing attention recently as general health-promoting functional foods, and are probably used to enrich several foods you already eat (i.e. as fructo-oligosaccharides). They have been found in studies to promote healthy intestinal flora, control blood sugar, and modulate the immune system. Oligosaccharides occur naturally in many plants (fruits, vegetables and algae) as well as in honey and milk. They can also be formed by breaking down the fruit’s more complex carbohydrates (i.e. pectin) by pectolytic enzymes, as was done by the researchers in this study. To some extent, this reaction may also occur when eating the raw fruit, since apples naturally contain about 1.5 percent pectin as well as the pectinase enzyme. However, it should be noted that most commercially processed apple juice contains virtually no pectin or active enzymes, and also contains only about 10 percent of the health-giving polyphenols compared to raw apples. As usual, eating raw and fresh is far healthier than consuming the processed version.
This new study adds further evidence to the health-promoting effects of apples and the potent anti-cancer effects of their oligosaccharides, even at low concentrations. The fact that these oligosaccharides can be derived from a widely available waste product of the apple juice industry (about four million tons of pomace are produced annually) offers promise for a low-cost natural medicine in the future.