Sauerkraut the next chicken soup
Sauerkraut, this fermented food has been getting a lot of buzz lately, after scientists in Seoul claimed that 11 of 13 infected chickens started to recover from the avian flu after being fed an extract of kimchi, a Korean dish similar to sauerkraut, according to a BBC report.
With fear of a possible bird flu pandemic growing, sales of kimchi and sauerkraut have spiked in many areas of the world, various news reports state.
Vitamins, Definitely; Anti-Cancer Properties, Maybe
There is no medical research showing the fermented cabbage dishes have curative properties against the avian flu, but researchers have found other reasons people should stop by the condiment aisle on their next supermarket trip. A recent study by the University of New Mexico indicates that eating sauerkraut's main ingredient, cabbage, may help ward off breast cancer.
Researchers wanted to know why Polish women have low rates of breast cancer, so they compared Polish natives to Polish-American immigrants. They discovered that women who ate four or more servings of raw or barely cooked cabbage per week during adolescence were 74 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than the women who ate 1.5 or fewer servings of sauerkraut per week.
More research will be needed to prove a conclusive relationship, but that doesn't mean people should skimp on the sauerkraut. Cabbage is packed with vitamins that may boost the immune system, and fermented cabbage contains lactic acid, which helps with digestion and may weaken infections.
A one-cup serving of sauerkraut provides 102 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K, 35 percent of vitamin C and 12 percent of iron, according to NutritionData. Plus, it contains only 32 calories, with four grams of fiber.
The breast cancer study is promising, said lead study author Dorothy Rybaczyk-Pathak.
"Breast cancer risk is not just a function of the increase in factors that we acquire as we change the environment, but also what we give up in our diet or in our lifestyle," she told BreastCancer Source, a research Web site maintained by the drugmaker AstraZeneca.
"We found protective effects with at least weekly consumption of cruciferous vegetables," said Paul Brennan, lead author of a research letter that appears in the Oct. 29 issue of The Lancet. He is head of the Genetic Epidemiology Group at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France.
Several previous observational studies had shown that cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli and sprouts, protected against lung cancer. However, these studies weren't big enough to be definitive, the authors of the new research said.
The apparent value of cruciferous vegetables lies in the fact that they are rich in isothiocyanates, which have been shown to have a chemopreventive effect against lung cancer.
But isothiocyanates are removed from the body by glutathione-S-transferase enzymes, which are produced by the genes GSTM1 and GSTT1. People who have inactive forms of these genes have higher levels of isothiocyanates.
For this study, the researchers looked at 2,141 people with lung cancer, comparing them with 2,168 healthy individuals in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Russia, where consumption of these vegetables has traditionally been high.
Participants filled out a food questionnaire, and also gave a blood sample so researchers could detect GSTM1 and GSTT1.
The questionnaire listed 23 foods, including three cruciferous vegetables: cabbage and a combination of Brussels sprouts with broccoli.
People with the inactive form of the GSTM1 gene who consumed cruciferous vegetables weekly had a 33 percent lower chance of developing lung cancer. People with an inactive form of the GSTT1 gene had a 37 percent lower risk, and those who had inactive forms of both genes had a 72 percent lower risk. There was no protective effect in people with active forms of the genes.
"The effect is not really all tied up with genes, although it does indicate that much of the protective vegetable effect is likely to be due to cruciferous vegetables," Brennan said.
The American Cancer Society already recommends that people eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Brennan noted, however, that "the evidence for any specific fruits/vegetables and cancer risk is pretty patchy."
This study was much more specific in its findings. "By looking at population subgroups who metabolize compounds in cruciferous vegetables more slowly, and finding that they have an increased protective effect, this indicates that there is a specific protective effect against lung cancer from cruciferous vegetables," he said.
It would be nice to have the results confirmed with randomized trials but, Brennan pointed out, "such trials are very expensive and take a long time."
Still, Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans, called the research a "very interesting observation."
"We clearly know that there is a genetic susceptibility to lung cancer," he said.
Curry Spice Plus Cabbage Compound May Fight Cancer
FRIDAY, Jan. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Numerous studies have suggested the curry spice turmeric can help fight off cancer.
And new research suggests it might help protect against -- and even treat -- prostate cancer, especially when combined with a substance found in cauliflower, cabbage and other kinds of vegetables.
Researchers at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, found that a combination of turmeric (also called curcumin) and phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) was effective against prostate cancer. PEITC is abundant in a group of vegetables that includes cauliflower, cabbage, watercress, winter cress, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi and turnips.
"The bottom line is that PEITC and curcumin, alone or in combination, demonstrate significant cancer-preventive qualities in laboratory mice, and the combination of PEITC and curcumin could be effective in treating established prostate cancers," Ah-Ng Tony Kong, a professor of pharmaceutics, said in a prepared statement.
He and his colleagues created mice with human prostate cancer tumors to test the effectiveness of PEITC and curcumin.
"Despite convincing data from laboratory cell cultures, we knew little about how PEITC and curcumin would perform in live animals, especially on prostate cancer," Kong said. "So, we undertook this study to evaluate how effective PEITC and curcumin might be -- individually and in combination -- to prevent and possibly treat prostate cancer."
The mice were injected with PEITC or curcumin, alone or in combination, three times a week for four weeks. The injections began a day before the prostate cancer cells were placed in the mice.
The study was published in the Jan. 15 issue of Cancer Research.