Cocoa May Prevent Colon Cancer
Got a sweet tooth? Good. You may be protecting yourself from colon cancer.
Researchers from the Institute of Food Science and Technology and Nutrition (ICTAN) in Spain have found that cocoa—in addition to playing a role in heart health—may offer protection against intestinal bowel diseases, such as colon cancer. Their research was published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.
In the study, the researchers fed rats a diet rich in cocoa for eight weeks. (The diet contained 12 percent cocoa.) At the end of the eight weeks, the rats were induced with azoxymethane, a cancer-causing chemical.
Four weeks later, lesions, called aberrant crypt foci, started to appear in the intestinal mucus of the rats. The rats that ate a cocoa-rich diet had a significantly lower number of these lesions in the colon. They were also found to have a decrease in the markers of oxidative damage.
"Being exposed to different poisons in the diet like toxins, mutagens, and pro-carcinogens, the intestinal mucus is very susceptible to pathologies," explains María Ángeles Martín Arribas, lead author of the study and researcher at ICTAN in the press release. "Foods like cocoa, which is rich in polyphenols, seem to play an important role in protecting against disease."
That role is still under investigation. The study's authors say it appears that cocoa blocks the signals involved in cell proliferation that leads to cancer. What's more, the rats in the cocoa group showed an increase in programmed cell death—a natural process that helps the body get rid of unhealthy cells to make room for new cells—which also plays a role in preventing cancer.
Researchers don't know which compounds are responsible for the effects, and if it has the same effects in humans, but the study shows promise for cocoa being both a prevention and possibly an early treatment of the disease.
Raising the (Chocolate) Bar
Cocoa has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and even improve your mood. The flavonoids in cocoa—procyanidins, catechins, and epicatechins—are thought to be productive against disease.
However, chocolate consumption comes with a caveat: Chocolate is high in fat and calories. Eat too much and you risk weight gain; and obesity has been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer.
To occasionally indulge your sweet tooth without worry, choose dark chocolate. It contains less fat and sugar, and more of the gut-friendly flavonoids.
Newsmax Health. Cocoa Prevents Colon Cancer. http://www.newsmaxhealth.com/health_stories/Chocolate_Colon_Cancer/2012/01/30/430790.html
Cocoa could prevent intestinal pathologies such as colon cancer.
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