Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Could eating grapes save you from skin cancer? Scientists find fruit protects against premature ageing

This was a study in laboratory glassware only. No people involved

Grapes could protect against skin cancer and prevent premature ageing, research has revealed. A study has shown that compounds found in the fruit protect cells from the ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun – the leading environmental cause of skin cancer.

UV rays increase the levels of reactive oxygen species – harmful molecules which damage the cells – in the skin.

Scientists from the University of Barcelona and the Spanish National Research Council have shown that substances called flavonoids extracted from grapes can prevent these from forming in cells exposed to UV rays.

Marta Cascante, a biochemist at the University of Barcelona and director of the research project, said: ‘These encouraging results should be taken into consideration... to develop new photo- protection skin products.’

Cosmetics and drugs containing grape compounds are already available, but the way they act on cells has not been well understood until now.

Dr Cascante, whose report was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, added: ‘This study supports the idea of using these products to protect the skin from cell damage and death caused by solar radiation.’


Beware lettuce addiction!

When Elsie Campbell began having cravings for lettuce, she thought it was a passing fancy. Even when it became an obsession that saw her eating four whole lettuces a day, she still tried to shrug it off as harmless.

Luckily for Mrs Campbell, her husband Jim, a research scientist, suspected there might be something more to it. He worked out that lettuce contains a particular nutrient that is lacking in breast cancer sufferers and that his wife’s urge to eat so much of it could mean she was suffering from the disease.

After a visit to her doctor, the mother of three was diagnosed with breast cancer, but has now made a full recovery thanks to the early diagnosis. She credits her husband’s quick-thinking for saving her life.

‘I’d always eaten it in salads, but suddenly, I just couldn’t get enough of it. I could eat three or four whole lettuces a day. I’d eat a whole iceberg lettuce at work, and sit on the bus on the way home thinking about eating more and more. ‘I’d get home and cut one into chunks and eat it like a watermelon. ‘I knew something wasn’t quite right – and my husband and my sons started to get quite worried about me.

‘Jim started investigating which nutrients and minerals were found in lettuce – and realised they were the same ones that your body can be deprived of when it is fighting cancer.’ Mrs Campbell, from Derby, added: ‘Not long afterwards, I discovered a small dimple on my breast – and my doctor confirmed I had breast cancer.

‘It’s only now that I realise my body was making me eat lettuce to combat the cancer. It was like my body was trying to cure itself.’ Mr Campbell has now created a website, questionmyhealth.com, that he says can help identify if users are suffering from a nutrient deficiency caused by something more serious.

The website asks users to answer a series of questions about themselves – such as whether they have white spots on their fingernails, whether they have a high libido, or whether they crave Marmite. It then analyses the answers and warns of any minerals or vitamins the user may be deficient in – and what that could mean.

The scientist, who has also written a book on nutrient deficiencies, hopes the site will help others spot potential diseases and cancers while they are still in the early stages.

Mr Campbell said: ‘Some chronic diseases, like diabetes and Alzheimer’s, can take 20 years to develop, but your body can give you a clue to what you are dealing with early on if you know what to look for.’

He added: ‘As a scientist, I know that everything has to have a cause and effect. Elsie didn’t start eating lettuce for no reason, so I started to do some research in which minerals and vitamins are found in it. ‘I discovered lettuce, like a lot of green veg, contains sulforaphane – which can attack cancer cells. I wondered if that was the reason why her body was craving it and suggested that Elsie visited the doctor.

‘Coincidentally, she discovered the small dimple on her breast the same day. We were devastated when the doctors told us she had cancer – but relieved that they managed to catch it so early.

‘Her lettuce cravings really were a warning sign – if she hadn’t suspected something was wrong, she would have probably never found the dimple, or certainly would not have been so concerned about it.’

Mrs Campbell, whose lettuce craving began in 2004, was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2005. She had the small lump removed from her breast and had months of treatment but has now been given the all-clear.

She added: ‘Strangely, since the lump was removed, I haven’t wanted to eat a single lettuce leaf – the craving’s completely vanished. ‘I was so lucky Jim spotted the signs when he did – my lettuce addiction probably saved my life.’


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