FoodFacts.com wants to ask everyone in our community to think about how many ways they can include celery and artichokes in their recipes. We can think of more than a few. Celery can add great crunch and texture to a variety of salads, adds flavor to soups and stews, and can even be spread with peanut butter for a wholesome treat. Artichokes aren’t simply a great side dish, they work well in recipes for chicken and fish, can be incorporated into pasta, and can even add a mild, interesting flavor to dips and spreads. We’re sure you can all think of more – and after the research we learned of today, we all should!
Celery, artichokes, and herbs, especially Mexican oregano, all contain apigenin and luteolin, flavonoids that kill human pancreatic cancer cells in the lab by inhibiting an important enzyme, according to two new University of Illinois studies.
“Apigenin alone induced cell death in two aggressive human pancreatic cancer cell lines. But we received the best results when we pre-treated cancer cells with apigenin for 24 hours, then applied the chemotherapeutic drug gemcitabine for 36 hours,” said Elvira de Mejia, a U of I professor of food chemistry and food toxicology.
Pancreatic cancer is a very aggressive cancer, and there are few early symptoms, meaning that the disease is often not found before it has spread. It is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths, with a five-year survival rate of only 6 percent, she said.
The scientists found that apigenin inhibited an enzyme called glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β), which led to a decrease in the production of anti-apoptotic genes in the pancreatic cancer cells. Apoptosis means that the cancer cell self-destructs because its DNA has been damaged.
In one of the cancer cell lines, the percentage of cells undergoing apoptosis went from 8.4 percent in cells that had not been treated with the flavonoid to 43.8 percent in cells that had been treated. In this case, no chemotherapy drug had been added.
Pancreatic cancer patients would probably not be able to eat enough flavonoid-rich foods to raise blood plasma levels of the flavonoid to an effective level. But scientists could design drugs that would achieve those concentrations, de Mejia said.
And prevention of this frightening disease is another story. “If you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables throughout your life, you’ll have chronic exposure to these bioactive flavonoids, which would certainly help to reduce the risk of cancer,” she noted.
FoodFacts.com is so pleased by the idea that flavonoids found in natural food sources may help scientists design effective treatments for pancreatic cancer. We’re also very pleased with the concept that eating vegetables that contain them throughout our lives will help reduce our risk for cancer. So let’s all be aware of exactly what it can mean to our health and well-being to consciously include more celery, artichokes, and herbs in our diets!