Spicy food may offer protection against cancer. Capsaicin, the compound that makes spicy food hot could lead to development of the next generation of anti-cancer drugs that kill tumors with no side effects, according to a new UK study published in the Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications online journal.
The study is also the first by the newly established Nottingham UK-China Collaboration on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which consists of researchers from the University of Nottingham and the Chinese National Academy of Sciences working in conjunction to develop active ingredients from herbal remedies. Capsaicin, the active component of chilies, has produced “startling” results to kill a variety of tumor cells including lung and pancreatic cancer.
“This is incredibly exciting and may explain why people living in countries like Mexico and India, who traditionally eat a diet which is very spicy, tend to have lower incidences of many cancers that are prevalent in the Western world, “ said lead researcher Timothy Bates, Ph.D. Capsaicin belongs to a family of compounds (vanilloids) which kill cancer by attacking the mitochondria (energy containing chemical) of tumor cells. By binding proteins in the cancer cell mitochondria, capsaicin triggers apoptosis (natural cell death) without harming surrounding healthy cells.
“It’s also possible that cancer patients or those at risk of developing cancer could be advised to eat a diet which is richer is spicy foods to help treat or prevent the disease,” said Bates. “As these compounds attack the very heart of the tumor cells, we believe that we have in effect discovered a fundamental ‘Achilles heel’ for all cancers. We are currently seeking industrial partners to enable these agents to be used in clinical trials to treat a variety of cancers.” Capsaicin is currently found in treatments for muscle strain and psoriasis and could possibly be an active ingredient in an adapted topical treatment for certain types of skin cancer.
For more information on Chinese herbal medicine and Chinese food therapy contact Dr. Richard Browne at (305) 595-9500.
"Written by Rev. Dr. Richard Browne