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Pennsylvania State University research

Eat purple potatoes to cut your colon cancer risk, study claims

Scientists at Pennsylvania State University found that a diet rich in colourful fruits and vegetables may prevent or stop colon cancer and bowel inflammatory diseases in pigs. A daily dose of purple potatoes possibly helps in the prevention colon cancer.

Understanding the compounds found in these foods and how they break down in the digestive tract could be crucial for finding new colon cancer treatments, researchers say.

“We are learning that food is a double-edge sword; it may promote disease, but it may also help prevent chronic diseases like colon cancer,” said Jairam K.P. Vanamala, associate professor of Food Sciences at PSU. “What we don’t know is, how does this food work on the molecular level? This study is a step in that direction.”

The researchers gave a group of pigs a high-calorie diet with purple-fleshed potatoes added and compared levels of colonic mucosal interleukin-6 (IL-6). This IL-6 is a protein, crucial for inflammation to occur in the intestine, and high levels of it are associated with high levels of proteins linked to the growth and spread of cancer cells in the colon.

According to an article on, Vanamala and his team were able to posit that whole foods containing macronutrients - nutrients the human body needs in large amounts - may alter the IL-6 pathway and cut the production of potentially cancerous proteins. The researchers said the addition of vitamins, carotenoids, and flavonoids (phytonutrients found in colourful fruits and vegetables) have a positive effect as well.

The full study was published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

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