Thursday, March 24, 2005
Medical Researchers Say Mustard Might Be a Cancer-Inhibitor
By ROGER M. GRACE
Mustard, used since ancient times as a medicine, is one of the foods currently being examined by researchers for possible anticarcinogenic properties.
There’s not enough to go on to conclude that downing sandwiches with gobs of mustard would help ward off cancer. But table mustard, as well as mustard greens, are looking good in ongoing research on cancer inhibitors.
The Dec. 10, 1996 issue of The Journal of College Science Teaching explained:
“Brassicaceae, the mustard family of plants, contain large amounts of glucosinolates, which have anticarcinogenic qualities. Various nutritionally relevant cruciferous species contain 20 different glucosinolates. Black mustard, used for producing table-mustard, contains isothiocyanates and thiocyanates. These compounds give flavor to dishes and are antibacterial, antifungal and anticarcinogenic....Mustard seeds are rich in glucosinolates.”
Dry and prepared mustard are made from the seeds of the mustard plant.
An article in the Sept. 1, 2002 edition of Nutrition Today said of glucosinolates:
“They are metabolized in the body to isothiocyanates and are, in part, responsible for the sharp taste of mustard seeds, horseradish, wasabi, and the Brassica vegetables. Certain of these compounds have, in the past two decades, been determined to have many positive health effects, including carcinogen detoxification and antioxidant properties. They are now being explored for their potential as components in a dietary cancer prevention strategy.”
Reporting on research being conducted by the zoology department of Rajasthan University in India, the Hindustan Times said on Dec. 18, 2003:
“Initial findings of an ongoing research on extracts of basil..., mint..., aloe vera...and mustard suggest that these have come up with cancer-preventive properties.”
In fact, “[a] host of recent studies,” the Sept. 23, 2000 issue of Science News said, “has shown that brassicas—which include broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and mustard—possess cancer-fighting compounds.”
Even before there was talk of glucosinolates, mustard greens (leaves of the mustard plant) and other dark green leafy vegetables drew high marks from cancer authorities because of the high content of beta-carotene, a form of vitamin A.
The American Institute for Cancer Research advised in 1988:
“Research evidence has indicated that the consumption of foods rich in beta-carotene may help to significantly reduce cancer risk.
“Other studies have shown that vitamin A deficiencies appear to increase susceptibility to cancer.”
The prospect has emerged that mustard greens and other forms of brassicas—or “cruciferous” vegetables (four petaled, in the form of a cross)—might not only play a role in preventing cancer, but also in arresting its development.
A Dec. 24, 2003, press release from Texas A&M began:
“Broccoli, cabbage, turnips and mustard greens. A dose a day keeps most cancers away.
“But for those who develop cancer, the same vegetables may ultimately produce the cure. Research at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station has led to a patent for a new use for derivatives of DIM, or diindolylmethane, a natural compound derived from certain vegetables, to treat cancer.”
The press release said that a team of researchers working under Dr. Steve Safe sought to determine how the vegetables block cancer from developing, and found that compounds contained in them “target PPAR gamma, a protein that is highly active in fat cells.”
The press release explained:
“Safe’s lab chemically modified ‘natural’ DIM to give a series of compounds that target the PPAR gamma and stop the growth of cancer.”
It worked on laboratory animals—and the question now is whether it will prove useful in treating humans.
Research has also centered on turmeric, used in most prepared mustards to add yellow coloring. Specifically, it’s curcumin, the constituent of turmeric that provides the pigment, that scientists believe is anticarginogenic.
According to the Aug. 31, 2001 issue of the Journal of Nutrition:
“A wide range of biological and pharmacological activities of curcumin has been investigated. Curcumin is a potent inhibitor of mutagenesis and chemically induced carcinogenesis. It possesses many therapeutic properties including anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities. Curcumin is currently attracting strong attention due to its antioxidant potential as well as its relatively low toxicity to rodents.”
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