One of the most successful applications of juicing in the field of cancer is in supporting recovery from prostate cancer. And prostate cancer researchers have a good understanding of why juicing works and which juices are the most helpful. Tomato juice, you might be surprised to learn, is not at the top of the list.
Fruits, Vegetables, and Prostate Cancer
It's well-established science that men who eat more plant foods are less likely to develop cancer. It was not until about 2000, however, that researchers began to understand why. While fruits and vegetables contain many components that support men's health, from anthocyanidins and antioxidants to lycopene and folic acid, the most important component of plant foods for prostate health isn't a chemical but a fiber. The component of fruits and vegetables that confers the greatest amount of protection against prostate cancer is pectin.
Pectin gives vegetables and fruits their texture. It is especially abundant in stone fruit, and it's also abundant in citrus fruit. Pectin is a sticky fiber that makes fruit juice into jelly and jam. It traps juices so they don't run all over your slice of toast or your English muffin every morning. It also gives some vegetables a gelatinous mouth feel when they are cooked.
It turns out, investigators at several US research institutions have discovered, that pectin has a remarkably similar function in the fight against prostate cancer. It can trap cells as they attempt to escape tumors and enter the bloodstream. In prostate cancer, the threat to life occurs when the primary cancer in tumor begins to break up and colonize a distant organ, usually the bones, which have a mineral structure that captures stray cancer cells, or the lungs, which come in contact with the body's entire blood supply.
It's not enough for a cancer cell to arrive at another organ for it to establish a secondary tumor. It has to be connected into the new organ with proteins known as integrins. These are generated by the cancer cell itself. The cancer cell has to be “settled in” before it can begin to multiply and form a new tumor.
The need to be plugged into healthy tumor gives the immune system an opportunity to attack the cancer cell. The immune system recognizes the shape of the integrin molecule and destroys it to prevent the formation of the new tumor. And certain plant pectins, it turns out, have the same molecular shape as the protein molecules that glue prostate cancer cells in place.
When you eat pectins, your body creates antibodies to keep them out of your bloodstream, destroying them while they are still in the lining of your small intestine. These antibodies flow back into general circulation and eventually come in contact with prostate cancer cells on the move. The pectins in fruits and vegetables “train” the immune system to fight cancer's spread.
Neither the immune system nor the pectin itself actually kill any cells. Pectin does not kill cancer cells, and it does not, unlike most treatments for cancer, kill healthy cells. It just keeps tumors from establishing themselves elsewhere in the body. In a few days to a few weeks the individual cancer cells undergo a process called apoptosis and die. After these cancer cells die a natural death, white blood cells called macrophages surround and digest them to recycle their nutritional components.
Not Just for Prostate Cancer
Pectin's ability to activate the immune system is not limited just to prostate cancer. There is preliminary evidence that pectins can be used to treat cancers involving just about any organ surrounded by membranes.
Pectins have been used to treat cancers of the ducts of the breast and the ovaries. They have been used to treat angiosarcoma, a cancer that colonizes the lining of arteries. They have been used to treat metastatic melanoma. Most of the research into the use pectins for treating prostate cancer, however, focuses on a particular kind of pectin known as modified citrus pectin, or MCP.
The modification of citrus pectin for this product is intended to make it possible to put the pectin in a capsule. It is possible to get a substantial amount of pectin from eating several pieces of fruit, but most of the substance is mixed with other kinds of fibers that don't have the same effect on the immune system. The process of making MCP breaks up pectin into tiny fibers that can be taken in tiny doses that more completely coat the lining of the small intestine.
Another advantage of MCP is that it can be standardized so researchers know exactly how much pectin volunteers are receiving in clinical trials. Back in 1999, Dr. Stephen Strum conducted the first clinical trial of MCP under the auspices of the Life Extension Institute in the USA. He recruited seven men who had “refractory” prostate cancer that failed to respond to any other treatment and gave them 5,000 mg of MCP per day for 3 months. In five of the seven men, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels fell, indicating less activity of the disease. In one of the seven men, PSA fell to zero.
For his next study of MCP, Strum collaborated with Brad Guess and Dr. Mark Scholz to see how MCP might modify prostate-specific doubling time (PSADT), which measures how fast prostate cancer comes back after conventional medical treatment. The higher the doubling time, the more slowly the cancer is progressing. In 8 out of 10 men volunteering for the study, PSADT was higher after taking MCP for 12 months. One volunteer who had stage IV prostate cancer had his PSA (cancer activity) levels reduced by half in 16 weeks.
Physician Dr. Isaac Eliaz and nutritionist Dr. Nan Fuchs have used MCP in treating “many” men who have had otherwise-untreatable prostate cancer over the last 10 years. They have also used it in treating women who had breast cancer or ovarian cancer. Not just any form of MCP, however, is helpful.
How You Can Get Your Pectin for Fighting Prostate Cancer
Eliaz and Fuchs have found that only the “short” fibers of fruit pectin help stop the spread of prostate cancer. That is probably because longer fibers of pectin get stuck in the middle of digested food. If you have prostate cancer, you shouldn't be trying to get your citrus fruit pectin from citrus fruit juices. Take the supplement. But there are other reasons to drink small amounts of juice in your daily diet.
Colorful fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants:
- Drink juices of cantaloupe, mango, papaya, apricots, or, if you can stand it, broccoli to get beta-carotene with its co-factor alpha-carotene. Alpha- and beta-carotene are not, recent research has discovered contrary to earlier speculation, harmful during radiation treatment for prostate cancer. Researchers don't know why they are associated with better rates of remission and recovery from prostate cancer. They just know that they are. As little as 1 cup per month (that's right, per month) can make a difference in how fast men recover and how long they stay in remission).
- Drink tomato juice for lycopene. If you take saw palmetto for prostate support, the lycopene in tomato juice along with selenium from nuts or seeds (2 or 3 Brazil nuts a day provides all the selenium needed) helps saw palmetto work better. Like carrot juice, tomato juice is helpful even if you only drink 1 cup per month. One cup per day is closer to optimal. Adding a little garlic to tomato may require use of extra breath freshener, but the garlic speeds up the apoptosis (cell death) of hormone-resistant cancer cells. One clove a day is enough.
- Cabbage juice is a good source of sulforaphanes. These are the chemicals that make cabbage juice smell bad to some people. The chemical that causes the stinky sulfurous smell of the juice is also what accelerates death of prostate cancer cells. A small amount of juice, as little as 1 cup per day, is enough. Be sure not to drink more than 1 cup of cabbage juice per day if you have hypothyroidism—although it's OK if you are on thyroid hormone replacement (Synthroid).
- Apples, raspberries, and red grapes are great sources of quercetin, which is concentrated in their peels. Quercetin stops inflammation and blocks some of the effects of testosterone on prostate cancer cells. Since you need to include the peels in the mash for making juice, a macerating juicer is preferable to a juice extractor.
- Lignans are found in ground flaxseed but not in flaxseed oil. There is good evidence that lignans help reduce the risk of ever developing prostate cancer by providing fibers that prevent the reabsorption of “recycled” testosterone out of feces while it passes through the colon. There is no evidence that they also treat prostate cancer, but there is good reason to believe they may also prevent recurrence of hormone-sensitive prostate cancer.
The one vegetable that is most beneficial in either juices or salads, however, is broccoli sprouts, especially the commercial product known as Broccosprouts. Rich in selenium and other minerals, Broccosprouts have more potential than any other fruit or vegetable to slow the progression of prostate cancer. Always use them within 48 hours of purchase, however, and never store the sprouts so that they touch any other fruit or vegetable in your refrigerator. This helps avoid contamination of sprouts with unwashed produce or with fruits or vegetables that rough rinds that can catch bacteria.