Berry Compound May Help Fight Cancer, Study Says
When you walk through the aisles of the produce department this time of year and see cartons of fresh colorful berries, it’s hard to ignore them. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries…not only are they delicious, they also have multiple health benefits.
Studies have found that the natural pigments which give berries their color, anthocyanins, offer protection against cardiovascular disease, diabetes and inflammation. They also help combat cognitive decline and neurodegeneration associated with aging. And to top it off, berries are even good for your vision.
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There has also been a great deal of research on the effect of anthocyanin-rich berries in the battle against cancer. In particular, they appear to reduce the risk of cancer, slow down the spread of cancer cells and perhaps even help to kill them.
Now, a new study from the University of Eastern Finland may explain exactly how the anthocyanins in berries work to regulate cancer cells.
How Berries Change the Expression of Cancer Genes
According to the new research, the anthocyanins in berries increase the function of the sirtuin 6 enzyme, or SIRT6, in cancer cells.
Sirtuins are enzymes regulating the expression of genes that control the function of cells through key cellular signalling pathways. As you age, changes in sirtuin function contribute to the development of an assortment of diseases.
SIRT6 is a lesser-known sirtuin that plays a role in DNA repair, genomic stability, telomere maintenance, inflammation and the regulation of lipid and glucose metabolism.
In the new study, the research team wanted to find out how anthocyanins might be able to regulate the SIRT6 enzyme. The accomplished this by developing a computer-based model to help them predict the outcomes.
What they discovered indicates that anthocyanins increase the activation of SIRT6, decrease the expression of certain cancer genes, and increase the expression of tumor suppressing genes.
“The most interesting results of our study relate to cyanidin, which is an anthocyanin found abundantly in wild bilberry, blackcurrant and lingonberry,” says lead author Minna Rahnasto-Rilla.
What to Look for in a Berry
It’s incredibly easy to eat more berries. They make a great topping for yogurts, cereals and salads. Add them to your smoothies…eat them as a snack…or use them to make a delicious berry cobbler.
When buying your berries, look for those that are plump, firm and uniform in color. If they have any wrinkling, mold or “mushiness,” you should pass them up.
Also, buy organic whenever you can. This is particularly true when it comes to strawberries, which are the most pesticide-laden form of produce at the market (they topped the dirty dozen list for pesticide residues again this year).
Khoo HE, et al. Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits. Food Nutr Res. 2017; 61(1): 1361779.
Kristo AS, et al. Protective Role of Dietary Berries in Cancer. Antioxidants (Basel). 2016 Dec; 5(4): 37.
New health benefits discovered in berry pigment. Press Release. University of Eastern Finland. Apr 2018.
Dana Nicholas is a freelance writer and researcher in the field of natural and alternative healing. She has over 20 years of experience working with many noted health authors and anti-aging professionals, including James Balch, M.D., Dr. Linda Page, “Amazon” John Easterling and Al Sears M.D. Dana’s goal is to keep you up-to-date on information, news and breakthroughs that can have a direct impact on your health, your quality of life… and your lifespan. “I’m absolutely convinced that America’s misguided trust in mainstream medicine – including reliance on the government to regulate our food and medicine supply – is killing us, slowly but surely,” she cautions. “By sharing what I’ve learned throughout the years I hope I can empower others to take control over their own health.”