A molecule within our bodies called an aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is responsible for the way our cells behave. Cigarette smoking and dioxins in the environment can cause these receptor’s to go awry and lead to the formation of cancer cells.
Scientists at Rochester University in the US have discovered that there are chemicals in green tea, which block the receptors, and therefore provide protection against cancer. To test out their theory, they used green tea to cure mice who had been infected with cancer and found that the green tea shut down the AhR receptor.
The chemicals in the tea that are thought to be responsible for this anti-cancer action are called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) and are similar to flavonoids that are found in broccoli and red wine, this maybe one of the reasons why broccoli and red wine are good for us.
Studies are currently underway in human subjects and the preliminary findings suggest that green tea is also nature’s anti-cancer drug for us.
The Cancer Research UK charity is involved in the EPIC study of 500,000 people in ten different European countries to find out what impact diet has on the development of cancer. All of the participants were healthy at the start of the investigation and are to be monitored for at least ten years. The results so far show that:
Eating foods rich in vitamin C reduces the risk of dying early from any cause by 20%.
Eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables decreases the risk of cancer overall.
Eating lots of fiber reduces bowel, stomach and esophageal (food pipe) cancer.
So swap your cup of coffee for a cup of green tea and have a nice plate of steamed vegetables with your glass of red wine, and you are already beating the odds of getting cancer!
Sources: Chem. Res. Toxicol., 2003, 16 (7), pp 865–872
Cancer Research US
Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/