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Chamomile tea can be refreshing treat - as well as a safeguard against cancer, researchers say

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 22nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It's a refreshing treat for the late afternoon - and now a cup of chamomile tea could help ward off cancer, researchers say. It seems that the tea contains a chemical, apigenin, which takes away some of the "superpowers" of cancer cells.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Scientists at Ohio State University say that apigenin can block the ability of breast cancer cells to live longer than normal cells, therefore halting their spread and making them more open to drug therapy.

Apigenin is found most commonly in chamomile tea, parsley and celery. It's also found in many fruit and vegetables common in a Mediterranean diet. Apigenin has also been shown to act as an anti-inflammatory, working in a way that suggests other nutrients could have similar effects in warding off cancer.

It helps proteins correct the abnormalities in RNA - molecules carrying genetic information - that are responsible for about 80 per cent of cancers.

"We know we need to eat healthfully, but in most cases we do not know the actual mechanistic reasons for why we need to do that," Molecular geneticist Professor Andrea Doseff, of Ohio State University says. "We see here the beneficial effect on health is attributed to this dietary nutrient affecting many proteins.

"In its relationship with a set of specific proteins, apigenin re-establishes the normal profile in cancer cells. We think this can have great value clinically as a potential cancer-prevention strategy."

Cancer cells spread by inhibiting a process that would cause them to die on a regular cycle subject to strict programming. Researchers have found that apigenin could stop breast cancer cells from inhibiting their own death.

Much of what is known about the health benefits of nutrients is based on epidemiological studies that show strong positive relationships between eating specific foods and more positive health outcomes, in particular reduced heart disease.

But how the actual molecules within these healthy foods work in the body is still a mystery in many cases. Researchers proved that apigenin binds with an estimated 160 proteins in the human body, suggesting other nutrients linked to health benefits called "nutraceuticals" might have similar far reaching effects.

In contrast, most pharmaceutical drugs target a single molecule.

The researchers, whose findings are published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, likened their technique to "fishing" for the human proteins in cells that interact with small molecules available in the diet.

"You can imagine all the potentially affected proteins as tiny fishes in a big bowl," Doseff says. "We introduce this molecule to the bowl and effectively lure only the truly affected proteins based on structural characteristics that form an attraction.

"We know this is a real partnership because we can see that the proteins and apigenin bind to each other."

Researchers are now testing whether food modified to contain proper doses of the nutrient can prevent cancer in mice.

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