Propolis could be used as a natural, non-toxic food preservative

Honey Bee propolis has long been known for it’s healing properties and propolis has now been found to contain the latest FDA approved drug for fighting colon cancer. 

The full article is pasted below and can also be viewed on the CBS Healthwatch website

Food Is Medicine in Colon Cancer Fight

Christopher Wanjek, Medical Writer

The latest FDA-approved drug for fighting colon cancer may be sitting in your kitchen. Rosemary, turmeric, grapes, a honey bee product called propolis: These all contain chemicals similar to a drug used to prevent the growth of cancerous cells in the large intestine; they work much in the same way.

"It’s gene therapy with food," says Dr. Andrew Dannenberg, professor of medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. "People lack an appreciation for the way the food they eat acts like drugs. We have known for decades that eating fruits and vegetables has health benefits. There’s a reason for this."

Although studies have yet to link eating rosemary with lowering your colon cancer risk, Dr. Dannenberg says that in laboratory cell cultures, many natural food products work just like synthetic drugs in controlling the processes that lead to cancer.

Gene Therapy With Food

Exercising and eating a high-fiber, low-meat diet, the experts say, can reduce your risk of developing colon cancer, the second deadliest cancer in the United States. Although two studies reported in April 2000 failed to prove a connection between a change in diet and colon cancer–results that surprised the scientists conducting the studies–the National Cancer Institute (NCI) still says that there is a great deal of evidence that diet influences colon cancer risk. The average person has about a 5% chance of developing this disease over his or her lifetime, according to the NCI. Colon cancer is nearly a sure thing, however, for individuals with a hereditary disease called familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). People with FAP develop hundreds and even thousands of potentially cancerous polyps in their colon and rectum. In December 1999, the FDA approved the drug celecoxib (brand name Celebrex) for the treatment of FAP.

Celecoxib helps prevent polyps from growing and turning cancerous by regulating a gene called COX-2. Rosemary, turmeric, and other foods work just like celecoxib by preventing COX-2 from making a particular protein associated with cancer growth, Dr. Dannenberg says. COX-2’s "purpose" for being in the body is unknown. It seems to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels and inhibit a cell’s natural "self-death" mechanism. This encourages cancer growth.

Medicine Wed to Nutrition

According to Dr. Dannenberg, the similarities between a food like rosemary and a drug like celecoxib are one example of how science is close to marrying the fields of nutrition and molecular medicine.
"People lack an appreciation for the way the food they eat acts like drugs."
"It is irrefutable that making a mouse deficient of the COX-2 gene will protect it against intestinal tumors," says Dr. Dannenberg. "It is also irrefutable that in cell culture, these natural substances found in the diet prevent [COX-2] from being turned on. We just haven’t proven that feeding these substances to a human can prevent the gene from turning on … and therefore prevent cancer."

Food Chemistry, Fiber, Selenium

According to the NCI, up to 35% of all cancers may be related to what we eat: Some foods may increase cancer risk; others may lower it. As with the COX-2 inhibitors, it is a matter of how a given food, composed of chemicals just like pharmaceutical drugs, interacts with the body.

Meat cooked at high temperatures creates chemicals that are not present in uncooked meat, and some of these chemicals may increase cancer risk, according to the NCI. Dietary fiber, however, is linked to lowering cancer rates. This may be due to the way the chemicals in vegetable fiber interact with bile acid and metabolism, according to Dr. Carolyn Clifford, acting chief of nutritional science at the NCI Division of Cancer Prevention.

The Arizona Cancer Center conducted a study on the benefits of selenium in fighting cancer. Supplements of selenium, a trace essential mineral found in brewer’s yeast, reduced the incidence of colon cancer in the Institute’s 5-year study. The reason why is not yet clear.

Sharks and Polar Bears

Some of the more interesting studies being done on the relationship between natural substances and lower cancer rates involve sharks and polar bears. Sharks (along with rays and other cartilaginous fish) may have a very low risk of developing any type of cancer. Although new studies have cast doubt on this notion, researchers are investigating the benefits of shark cartilage in cancer treatment.

Polar bears do not develop colon cancer, according to Dr. David Alberts, director of Cancer Prevention and Control at the Arizona Cancer Center. And you couldn’t find a diet lower in fiber and higher in fat than a polar bear diet.

The reason for the apparent absence of colon cancer, Dr. Alberts says, seems to be a naturally occurring acid called UDCA, which exists in high concentrations in polar bear bile but in low concentrations in human. Dr. Alberts would like to investigate this relationship further.

And just how does one go about screening polar bears for colon cancer? Very carefully.

© 2000 by Medscape Inc. All rights reserved.

Christopher Wanjek is a Washington, DC-based science and health writer.

Reviewed for medical accuracy by physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Harvard Medical School. BIDMC does not endorse any products or services advertised on this Web site. 

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