Currying Favor With Your Colon
September 20, 2006
By: Shelagh McNally for Reflux1
Those Indian curries are not just tickling our taste buds; they may also be reducing colon cancer.
A research team at Johns Hopkins and the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine recently showed how key ingredients in curry reduced the size and number of precancerous lesions in the colon. The results were published in the August issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology
|A colon-pleasing recipe to try for dinner tonight: |
Chicken Vindaloo – courtesy of www.epicurious.com/recipes
Ingredients: 3 cups chopped onion
1 ½ cups chopped, seeded tomatoes (about 4 medium)
2 ½ tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 teaspoon minced, peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon garam masala*
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 to 1 ½ inch pieces
1 ½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 ½ cups low salt chicken broth or water
Blend first 11 ingredients and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper in processor until paste forms. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add paste from processor and cook until golden, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Add chicken and potatoes; sauté 5 minutes. Add broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Uncover and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Season with more cayenne, if desired, and salt and pepper.
*A spice mixture available at Indian markets, some specialty foods stores, and many supermarkets. To substitute, mix 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin, 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon; use 1 teaspoon of mixture.
Curries are typically made with onions combined with turmeric, the powdered root of the herb curcuma longa. During the study, five patients with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) were given Oxy-Q, a pill developed by Farr Laboratories. Oxy-Q is a curcumin extracted from turmeric and quercetin extracted from onions. All five patients received 480 milligrams of curcumin and 20 milligrams of quercetin orally three times a day over a six months period. During that period the average number of polyps dropped 60.4 percent, and the average size dropped by 50.9 percent. “We believe this is the first proof of principle that these substances have significant effects in patients with FAP,” said lead researcher Francis M. Giardiello, M.D.
FAP is an inherited disease characterized by the development of hundreds of colorectal polyps in the lower colon that almost always leads to cancer by the age of 50. Usually a preventive colectomy (removal of the colon) is done or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are prescribed. Both treatments are less than ideal. Side effects of colectomy include bladder complications, diarrhea, bowel irregularities, urinary urgency and sexual dysfunction. NSAIDs often cause gastrointestinal ulceration and bleeding. The idea of a preventive, non-evasive treatment for colon cancer is appealing.
“Although small, this is an important study because it provides clinical evidence that a nutritional supplement with curcumin and quercetin may be as effective as pharmaceuticals in this patient population,” said Marcia Cruz-Correa, M.D., Ph.D., University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, another researcher on the study. “It showed for the first time that curcumin treatment was efficacious in decreasing the number of polyps in patients with FAP, similarly to what has been seen with the use of synthetic NSAID agents, but with minimal side effects.”
Curcumin is also being studied as a possible treatment for other cancers. Recent research at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center found that curcumin also helped stop the metastasis of breast cancer cells to the lung in mice. A human study is now in progress. The University of Swansea in the UK is studying the effects of curcumin on cancers of the gastro-intestinal tract, started after scientists noted the much lower rate of esophageal cancers in India, where turmeric is an important part of the diet. Colorectal cancer accounts for 9 percent of new cancer cases per year in the developed world. Asia and Africa have the lowest incidence rates of colon cancer.
But eating a curry a day may not be enough. While most of us are probably getting enough quercetin (found in apples, onions, green teas and red wines), our intake of curcumin is probably too low. “The amount of quercetin we administered was similar to what many people consume daily; however, the amount of curcumin is many times what a person might ingest in a typical diet, since turmeric only contains on average 3 percent to 5 percent curcumin by weight,” says Giardiello.
More research is needed and Dr. Cruz-Correa said a larger, randomized study using placebos and curcumin is planned. In the meantime, keep enjoying your Vindaloo, Biryani and Tandoori.
Last updated: 20-Sep-06