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Peaches, nectarines, and plums fight metabolic syndrome

Peaches, plums, and nectarines give obesity and diabetes a slim chance, says a recent study from Texas A&M AgriLife. Do your children or other family members show signs of metabolic syndrome? Peaches, plums and nectarines have bioactive compounds that can potentially fight-off obesity-related diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to new studies by Texas A&M AgriLife. Researchers presented the study back in August 2013, at the American Chemical Society. But research on the health benefits of peaches continues with new studies.

Peaches, nectarines, and plums fight metabolic syndrome.
Photo by The White House/Getty Images

In the 2012 study, researchers showed that the compounds in stone fruits could be a weapon against "metabolic syndrome," in which obesity and inflammation lead to serious health issues, according to Dr. Luis Cisneros-Zevallos, AgriLife Research food scientist.

"In recent years obesity has become a major concern in society due to the health problems associated to it," said Cisneros-Zevallos, according to the June 18, 2012 news release, "Peaches, plums, nectarines give obesity, diabetes slim chance." Cisneros-Zevallos also is an associate professor at Texas A&M University. "In the U.S., statistics show that around 30 percent of the population is overweight or obese, and these cases are increasing every year in alarming numbers."

While he acknowledged that lifestyle, genetic predisposition and diet play a major role in one's tendency toward obesity, the major concern about obesity is the associated disease known as metabolic syndrome

"Our studies have shown that stone fruits – peaches, plums and nectarines – have bioactive compounds that can potentially fight the syndrome," Cisneros-Zevallos said, according to the news release, Peaches, plums, nectarines give obesity, diabetes slim chance. "Our work indicates that phenolic compounds present in these fruits have anti-obesity, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties in different cell lines and may also reduce the oxidation of bad cholesterol LDL which is associated to cardiovascular disease."

What is unique to these fruits, he said, is that their mixture of the bioactive compounds work simultaneously within the different components of the disease. "Our work shows that the four major phenolic groups – anthocyanins, clorogenic acids, quercetin derivatives and catechins – work on different cells – fat cells, macrophages and vascular endothelial cells," he explained in the news release.

"They modulate different expressions of genes and proteins depending on the type of compound. However, at the same time, all of them are working simultaneously in different fronts against the components of the disease, including obesity, inflammation, diabetes and cardiovascular disease," he said, according to the news release.

Cisneros-Zevallos said this is believed to be the first time that "bioactive compounds of a fruit have been shown to potentially work in different fronts against a disease"

"Each of these stone fruits contain similar phenolic groups but in differing proportions so all of them are a good source of health promoting compounds and may complement each other," he said in the news release, adding that his team plans to continue studying the role of each type of compound on the molecular mechanisms and confirm the work with mice studies.

The studies on the health benefits of stone fruit are funded by the California Tree Fruit Agreement, The California Plum Board, the California Grape and Tree Fruit League and the Texas Department of Agriculture. The Cisneros-Zevallos lab team in this study included Freddy Ibanez, Paula Castillo, Paula Simons and Dr. Congmei Cao.

Can two to three peaches a day keep certain cancers away?

Can this type of 'diet' obtain similar effects in humans as it did in mice? Texas researchers found that peaches inhibit breast cancer metastasis in mice, says new study, "Polyphenolics from peach (Prunus persica var. Rich Lady) inhibit tumor growth and metastasis of MDA-MB-435 breast cancer cells in vivo," published March 20, 2014 in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. Lab tests at Texas Texas A&M AgriLife Research have shown that treatments with peach extract inhibit breast cancer metastasis in mice.

AgriLife Research scientists say that the mixture of phenolic compounds present in the peach extract are responsible for the inhibition of metastasis, according to the study. "Cancer cells were implanted under the skin of mice with an aggressive type of breast cancer cells, the MDA-MB-435, and what we saw was an inhibition of a marker gene in the lungs after a few weeks indicating an inhibition of metastasis when the mice were consuming the peach extract," said Dr. Luis Cisneros-Zevallos, according to a March 25, 2014 news release, "Texas researcher: Peaches inhibit breast cancer metastasis in mice."

Cisneros-Zevallos is a food scientist for AgriLife Research in College Station. "Furthermore, after determining the dose necessary to see the effects in mice, it was calculated that for humans it would be equivalent to consuming two to three peaches per day."

Peach and plum polyphenols selectively killed aggressive breast cancer cells and not the normal ones in the new study

This is very important because it can be translated into something that is also beneficial for people, he added, according to the news release. This work builds upon previous work at AgriLife Research released a few years ago, which showed that peach and plum polyphenols selectively killed aggressive breast cancer cells and not the normal ones, Cisneros-Zavallos said, according to the news release.

The previous work as well as the present one was conducted by Cisneros-Zevallos, Dr. David Byrne, both with AgriLife Research; Dr. Weston Porter, Texas A&M University department of veterinary physiology and pharmacology; and then-graduate student Giuliana Noratto, who is now on the faculty at Washington State University.

In the western hemisphere, breast cancer is the most common malignant disease for women, he said in the news release. In the U.S. last year, the American Cancer Society estimated about 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer among women. Most of the complications and high mortality associated with breast cancer are due to metastasis, Cisneros-Zevallos pointed out.

"The importance of our findings are very relevant, because it shows in vivo the effect that natural compounds, in this case the phenolic compounds in peach, have against breast cancer and metastasis. It gives opportunity to include in the diet an additional tool to prevent and fight this terrible disease that affects so many people," he said, according to the news release.

Most peach fruit share similar polyphenolic compounds but might differ in content

Researchers conducted the study using the peach variety Rich Lady. However, according to Cisneros-Zevallos, most peach fruit share similar polyphenolic compounds but might differ in content. The study also determined that the underlying mechanism by which peach polyphenols are inhibiting metastasis would be by targeting and modulating the gene expression of metalloproteinases.

"In general, peach fruit has chemical compounds that are responsible for killing cancer cells while not affecting normal cells as we reported previously, and now we are seeing that this mixture of compounds can inhibit metastasis," said Cisneros-Zevallos, according to the news release. "We are enthusiastic about the idea that perhaps by consuming only two to three peaches a day we can obtain similar effects in humans. However, this will have to be the next step in the study for its confirmation."

Cisneros-Zevallos continues testing these extracts and compounds in different types of cancer as well as in diabetes studies in vitro and in vivo to understand the molecular mechanisms involved. The work documenting the health benefits of stone fruit has been supported by the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center at Texas A&M, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Tree Fruit Agreement.