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10/17/2013 02:09 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Could an Apple a Day Help With Cancer Prevention?

Red Apple. Used white paper behind apple and above apple and bounced SB-600 at 1/4th power. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Are Apples the New Superfood?

Apples contain cell protective plant chemicals called flavonoids, which act as antioxidants by scavenging free radicals that are destructive to your genes and by supporting normal inflammation control. Cancer is a disease characterized by increased inflammation and oxidative stress from roaming electrons, which damage your DNA the way rust damages metal. This damage is the first step in the development of cancer. Eating foods rich in protective plant chemicals is not only a powerful way to protect your genes, but to turn genes on and off as well. Just think about it... your food is talking to your genes!

According to Cornell University researchers Jeanelle Boyer and Rui Hai Liu in their review article "Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits, "Several studies have specifically linked apple consumption with a reduced risk for cancer (1)."

Apples are rich in plant chemicals, which do just that. Most of the flavonoids are in the skin, so don't peel your apples! Eat them organic whenever possible. If you cannot find organic apples, wash them well in warm water to remove wax coatings used to increase shelf life but not good for your health!

So what's in your apples?

Quercitin is found in the skin of red apples and in other red foods such a red onions, pomegranates and cranberries. Quercitin has over 30 known functions in the body. If there was a drug that had so many benefits, it would be a blockbuster!

In order to get the full benefits of Quercitin, it must be broken down by the healthy bacteria that normally live in your intestines. Therefore, it is vitally important to include fermented foods in the diet or take a supplement of probiotics in order to get plenty of friendly and necessary lactic acid bacteria, such as acidophilus, in the diet. (2) Fermented foods include yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kim chi and miso.

  • Quercitin Supports Normal Inflammation Control by suppressing nuclear factor NFkB (8)
  • Quercitin Promotes Inhibition of Cancer Growth factors such as EGFR (Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor) and her2 neu (5) common in many cancers, including breast cancer (6)
  • Quercitin Supports expression of tumor suppressor genes PTEN, p21 and p27 (7)
  • Procyanidins give many fruits their deep colors. Not only are these potent antioxidants found in apple skins but also in high amounts in chocolate, red wine and cranberries. (4) That's good news! Procyanidins are super antioxidants that protect your DNA from damage and thus avert the very first step in the birth of a cancer cell.

    In fact, researchers at the University of Vienna discovered that apple-derived phytochemicals, including quercitin and procyanidins, can suppress the activity of EGFR, a tumor growth factor receptor prevalent in many breast cancers. (5)

    Another study found that procyanidins exert inflammation control by suppressing a proinflammatory leukotriene called LOX1. (9) Because chronic inflammation can be a risk factor for cancer, controlling inflammation is one of the keys to cancer prevention.

    Including foods that contain anti-inflammatory plant chemicals is a powerful way to create an inner terrain that is inhospitable to the development, growth and spread of cancer.

    Plant Fibers and Pectin are necessary for normal intestinal function and to the flourishing of a healthy intestinal ecology ripe with friendly bacteria that perform many essential functions including inflammation control, detoxification and hormone metabolism.

    Vitamin C performs many functions. It is a potent cell-protective antioxidant and also contributes to the health of the lining of digestive tract, breathing passages of your nose and throat and lungs, to strong and healthy tendons and ligaments necessary for stable and flexible joints and to robust immune resistance to infections, especially viral infections.

    A German study on the effects of apples, apple juice and apple components on the activity of cancer cells concludes that:

    ... regular consumption of one or more apples a day may reduce the risk for lung and colon cancer by altering the metabolism of carcinogenic (cancer causing) chemicals, antioxidant activity, anti-inflammatory mechanisms, normal cell death (apoptosis) promotion and by influencing epigenetic (gene influencing) events and innate immunity. (10)

    Cornell University researchers studying the components of apple peels concluded that:

    ... results showed apple peel phytochemicals have potent antioxidant and antiproliferative activities. (11)

    It's no wonder the lovely apple was there in the Garden of Eden. It is truly a food of the gods and mere mortals! Enjoy apples in green salads and fruit salads, cooked with vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash, baked or poached with cinnamon, cardamom ginger cloves or red wine or in sugar-free organic applesauce. If you make your own applesauce at home, make it WITH the nutrient-rich peels!

    Try a simple nutritious snack of apple slices with almond butter!

    Grated Carrot Apple Salad with Cranberries

    Watercress Apple and Radish Salad

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    This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult your health care provider before making any changes in your diet.

    References

    1. Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits Nutrition Journal 2004, 3:5 doi:10.1186/1475-2891-3-5 Jeanelle Boyer and Rui Hai Liu*Department of Food Science and Institute of Comparative and Environmental Toxicology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853-7201 USA
    2. Schneider H, Schwiertz A, Collins M, Blaut M: Anaerobic transformation of quercetin-3-glucoside by bacteria from the human intestinal tract. Arch Microbiol 1999, 171:81-91.
    3. Block G, Patterson B, Subar A: Fruit, vegetables, and cancer prevention: a review of the epidemiological evidence.Nutr Cancer 1992, 18:1-29
    4. J Nutr. 2000 Aug;130(8S Suppl):2086S-92S.
    Procyanidin content and variation in some commonly consumed foods. Hammerstone JF, Lazarus SA, Schmitz HH.
    5. Food Funct. 2013 Apr 30;4(5):689-97. doi: 10.1039/c3fo30166d.
    Apple procyanidins affect several members of the ErbB receptor tyrosine kinase family in vitro.Teller N, Roth M, Esselen M, Fridrich D, Boettler U, Blust V, Will F, Dietrich H, Raul F, Hümmer W, Richling E, Schreier P, Marko D. Department of Food Chemistry and Toxicology, University of Vienna, Waehringer Strasse 38, 1090 Vienna, Austria.
    6. The pro-apoptotic effect of quercetin in cancer cell lines requires ERβ-dependent signals.
    Bulzomi P, Galluzzo P, Bolli A, Leone S, Acconcia F, Marino M.J Cell Physiol. 2012 May;227(5):1891-8. doi: 10.1002/jcp.22917.
    7. Apoptotic effect of quercetin on HT-29 colon cancer cells via the AMPK signaling pathway.
    Kim HJ, Kim SK, Kim BS, Lee SH, Park YS, Park BK, Kim SJ, Kim J, Choi C, Kim JS, Cho SD, Jung JW, Roh KH, Kang KS, Jung JY. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Aug 11;58(15):8643-50. doi: 10.1021/jf101510z.
    8. Quercetin suppresses inflammation by reducing ERK1/2 phosphorylation and NF kappa B activation in Leptin-induced Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells (HUVECs). Indra MR, Karyono S, Ratnawati R, Malik SG. BMC Res Notes. 2013 Jul 16;6(1):275. [Epub ahead of print]
    9. Procyanidins are potent inhibitors of LOX-1: a new player in the French Paradox.
    Nishizuka T, Fujita Y, Sato Y, Nakano A, Kakino A, Ohshima S, Kanda T, Yoshimoto R, Sawamura T.
    Proc Jpn Acad Ser B Phys Biol Sci. 2011;87(3):104-13. Erratum in: Proc Jpn Acad Ser B Phys Biol Sci. 2011;87(7):431.
    10. Cancer chemopreventive potential of apples, apple juice, and apple components.
    Gerhauser C. Planta Med. 2008 Oct;74(13):1608-24. doi: 10.1055/s-0028-1088300. Epub 2008 Oct 14. Review. PMID: 18855307 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
    11. Phytochemicals of apple peels: isolation, structure elucidation, and their antiproliferative and antioxidant activities. He X, Liu RH. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Nov 12;56(21):9905-10. doi: 10.1021/jf8015255. Epub 2008 Oct 2.