August 26, 2015

Colorful potatoes may pack powerful cancer prevention punch

"The butyric acid regulates immune function in the gut, suppresses chronic
inflammation and may also help to cause cancer cells to self-destruct," Vanamala said.
Image: Stephen Lea

(August 26, 2015)  Compounds found in purple potatoes may help kill colon cancer stem cells and limit the spread of the cancer, according to a team of researchers.

Baked purple-fleshed potatoes suppressed the growth of colon cancer tumors in petri dishes and in mice by targeting the cancer's stem cells. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. and responsible for more than 50,000 deaths annually, according to the American Cancer Society.

Attacking stem cells is an effective way to counter cancer, according to Jairam K.P. Vanamala, associate professor of food sciences, Penn State and faculty member at the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute.

"You might want to compare cancer stem cells to roots of the weeds," Vanamala said. "You may cut the weed, but as long as the roots are still there, the weeds will keep growing back and, likewise, if the cancer stem cells are still present, the cancer can still grow and spread."

The researchers, who released their findings in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, currently online, used a baked purple potato because potatoes are widely consumed and typically baked before they are consumed, especially in western countries. They wanted to make sure the vegetables maintained their anti-cancer properties even after cooking.

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