The One Show: Jeff bridges opens up on cancer battle
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According to a study published in 2015 by the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, purple potatoes suppressed the growth of bowel cancer tumours in laboratory tests and in mice; they did this by targeting cancer stem cells.
During the study, the scientists found that extract from the potatoes, which were baked beforehand, suppressed the spread of bowel cancer stem cells and increased the number that died.
Subsequently, they then tested the effect of a whole baked purple potato on mice with bowel cancer and found tests on these animals reflected those seen in laboratory tests.
As to why purple potatoes worked to kill bowel cancer cells, researchers had one main theory.
This theory was that there could be several substances in purple potatoes that work in multiple ways to kill the cancer cells including anthocyanins, chlorogenic acid, and resistant starch.
Professor Jairam Vanamala explained further: “Our earlier work and other research studies suggest that potatoes, including purple potatoes, contain resistant starch, which serves as a food for the gut bacteria, that the bacteria can covert to beneficial short-chain fatty acids such as butyric acid.
“The butyric acid regulates immune function in the gut, suppresses chronic inflammation and may also help to cause cancer cells to self-destruct.”
Professor Vanamala added it was important to have a range of colours in your diet: “When you eat from the rainbow, instead of one compound, you have thousands of compounds, working on different pathways to suppress the growth of cancer stem cells.”
Vanamala said this was because “cancer is such a complex disease, a silver bullet approach is just not possible for most cancers”.
Having discovered a link between purple potatoes and a reduced risk of bowel cancer, the researchers said their next step was to test the whole food approach in humans as a way to test how effective they were at preventing bowel cancer.
While purple potatoes were associated with reduced cancer risk in 2015, in 2022 potatoes were associated with better diet quality in adolescents.
The research, undertaken by The Alliance for Potato Research and Education, found that eating potatoes in any form was associated with higher intakes of key nutrients including dietary fibre and potassium.
Co-author of the study Victor Fulgoni said: “The potato is a nutrient-dense vegetable that provides important, critically under-consumed nutrients to adolescent diets.
“Given their popularity—more than half (56%) of those surveyed reported eating some form of potatoes—there are opportunities to lean into these findings to make it easier for young people to find, cook and enjoy potatoes as part of a healthy dietary pattern.”
In order to reach their conclusion, the researchers analysed the data of 16,633 nine to 18 year olds who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study between the years 2001 and 2018.
From this they were able to draw their conclusions about the health benefits of potatoes and their impact on the bodies of America’s youth.
Fulgoni said in a statement: “Our findings show that potatoes play an important role with helping adolescents better meet the recommendations set forth in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
“This is an important goal as, according to the USDA Agricultural Research Service, children and adolescents have the lowest HEI scores among any age group in the U.S. – just 53 out of an ideal HEI score of 100.”
“Our results also bring attention to the ‘company potatoes keep. Fried potatoes and potato chips are often paired with less nutrient-dense foods, which can’t be teased out in this type of study but may explain the slightly lower diet quality scores among these groups of potato eaters compared to baked/boiled potato eaters.”
The author cautioned that “additional clinical trials are needed to better elucidate this situation”.
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