Plant Compound Ellagic Acid Fights Cancer
Many plant foods contain a medicinal compound called ellagic acid. Turns out that this compound will help prevent heart disease and cancer.
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Research on ellagic acid
Researchers from the University of Hong Kong’s School of Chinese Medicine have found that ellagic acid – a phytonutrient found in many fruits, vegetables and medicinal herbs – fights off the growth of breast cancer cells.
The researchers found ellagic acid interferes with a cancer’s ability to expand through the process of creating blood vessels to feed its growth. This creation of blood vessels is called angiogenesis.
Cancer researchers have been experimenting with new pharmaceuticals in an effort to halt the process of angiogenesis among cancer cells. This new research found that a natural substance available in fruits, vegetables and herbal medicines can achieve the same purpose.
The research discovered that ellagic acid interferes with a receptor called VEGFR-2, which, when bound by vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), stimulates the growth of blood vessels among cancer cells.
The researchers tested ellagic acid among human breast cancer cells in the laboratory. They found that the ellagic acid “significantly inhibited” the growth of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer tumors, as well as blocked the ability of the tumor cells to expand and migrate – also called metastasizing. The researchers confirmed the findings using different experimental models.
The findings were published in this month’s Breast Cancer Researcher and Treatment Journal.
Foods with higher levels of ellagic acid
While ellagic acid is found in a large variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs, some of the highest levels are found among berry fruits and grapes. Strawberries, cranberries, blackberries, pomegranates, raspberries, blackberries and grapes have some of the highest amounts of ellagic acid. Walnuts and pecans also contain significant amounts. Ellagic acid is most known for its ability to neutralize free radicals – giving it a reputation of being a strong antioxidant.
Many foods with flavanols, which also help fight cancer, also tend to contain ellagic acid as well. Cumin also helps fight breast cancer according to other research. Hops also inhibits cancer growth according to other research.
Ellagic acid has also been shown in other research to slow and even reverse cancer growth. A previous study by the same researchers found that an herbal medicine called Sanguisorba officinalis halted breast tumor progression. As they investigated the active compounds that produced this effect, they came upon the ellagic acid. They found that ellagic acid, along with gallic acid, reduced tumor size and inhibited the expansion of human breast cancer tumors.
Wang N, Wang ZY, Mo SL, Loo TY, Wang DM, Luo HB, Yang DP, Chen YL, Shen JG, Chen JP. Ellagic acid, a phenolic compound, exerts anti-angiogenesis effects via VEGFR-2 signaling pathway in breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012 Feb 21.
Wang Z, Loo WT, Wang N, Chow LW, Wang D, Han F, Zheng X, Chen JP. Effect of Sanguisorba officinalis L on breast cancer growth and angiogenesis. Expert Opin Ther Targets. 2012 Feb 9.