—by Jeff Jurmain, MA
So much of medical research involves this one word: “why.”
Why does a food or supplement seem to help with a disease? Understanding the “why” triggers a lot of progress in a battle against that disease, so that future treatments can be made to mimic that same action.
In this vein, researchers have just made a major advance in the treatment of prostate cancer. They now know exactly why “polyphenols” in red wine and green tea could stop cancer from growing. This new discovery, published online in the “FASEB Journal,” explains how antioxidants in red wine and green tea act in the prostate to defeat tumors.
The polyphenols, which are natural chemicals that make fruits and vegetables extremely healthful, disrupt an important cell-signaling pathway that prostate cancer needs to grow. Without that pathway, the tumor is essentially stuck.
This finding is important because it may lead to the development of treatments that could stop or slow cancer progression. This same pathway is implicated in other cancers as well, including those of the colon, breast and gastrointestinal system. Even if future studies show that drinking red wine and green tea isn’t as effective as hoped, knowing that the polyphenols disrupt this pathway is an important step.
First, in vitro experiments showed that shutting down this pathway was essential for green tea and wine polyphenols to kill prostate cancer cells. Next, mice genetically altered to develop a human prostate cancer tumor were either treated or not treated with green tea and wine polyphenols. The treated mice showed reduced tumor growth. Another experiment used three groups of mice given drinking water, drinking water with a green tea compound known as “EGCg,” or drinking water with a different green tea compound, polyphenon E. Human prostate cancer cells were implanted in the mice and results showed a dramatic decrease in tumor size in the mice drinking the EGCg or polyphenon E mixtures.
The profound impact that the antioxidants in red wine and green tea have on our bodies may be far greater than we could have imagined. The researchers say that as long as they are taken in moderation, all signs show that red wine and green tea may be ranked among the most potent “health foods” around.