Two new studies out within the last month have found that a healthy diet may play a role in the prevention of pancreatic cancer.
Researchers with the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Institutes of Health calculated scores for over 500,000 participants in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Based on their responses to food frequency questionnaires, those who consumed a diet most consistent with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans had a lower risk of pancreatic cancer.
These key recommendations include:
• Adequate nutrients within calorie needs – consuming a variety of nutrient-dense foods within and among the basic food groups while choosing foods that limit intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt and alcohol.
• Weight Management – maintain body weight within a healthy range; balance calories from foods with calories expended.
• Physical Activity – engage in regular physical activity and reduce sedentary activities to promote health, psychological well-being, and a healthy body weight.
• Food groups to encourage – a variety of fruits and vegetables, consuming at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day. Consume 3 or more servings of whole-grain products. Consume 3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or milk equivalents.
• Fats – keep total intake of fat between 20 to 35 % of calories. Consume less than 10% of calories from saturated fatty acids and less than 300 mg/day cholesterol. Keep trans fats as low as possible.
• Carbohydrates – choose fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains often. Limit consumption of added sugars.
• Sodium and Potassium – consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Consume potassium-rich foods.
• Alcoholic beverages – those who choose to drink alcoholic beverages should do so sensibly and in moderation (up to 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men)
One group of foods that stand out among the best in preventing pancreatic cancer are those that contain apigenin and luteolin, flavonoids that kill pancreatic cancer cells in laboratory experiments. These foods include celery, artichokes and herbs, especially Mexican oregano.
Apigenin inhibits an enzyme called glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β), which led to a decreases in the production of anti-apoptotic genes in the pancreatic cancer cells. Apoptosis means that the cancer cell self-destructs because its DNA has been damaged.
"Apigenin alone induced cell death in two aggressive human pancreatic cancer cell lines. But we received the best results when we pre-treated cancer cells with apigenin for 24 hours, then applied the chemotherapeutic drug gemcitabine for 36 hours," said Elvira de Mejia, a University of Illinois professor of food chemistry and food toxicology.
Pancreatic cancer is a very aggressive cancer, and the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Unfortunately, there is a low five-year survival rate (only 6%) because there are few early symptoms, meaning that the disease is often not found before it has spread.
Ultimately the goal is to develop a cure, but prolonging the lives of patients would be a significant development, adds Jodee Johnson, a doctoral student working on the study.
R. Ballard-Barbash, S. M. Krebs-Smith, M. L. Neuhouser.Potential to Link Dietary Patterns in the Food Supply and Populations to Health. JNCI Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2013; DOI: 10.1093/jnci/djt220
Jodee L. Johnson, Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia. Interactions between dietary flavonoids apigenin or luteolin and chemotherapeutic drugs to potentiate anti-proliferative effect on human pancreatic cancer cells, in vitro. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 2013; 60: 83 DOI:10.1016/j.fct.2013.07.036
Jodee L. Johnson, Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia. Flavonoid apigenin modified gene expression associated with inflammation and cancer and induced apoptosis in human pancreatic cancer cells through inhibition of GSK-3β/NF-κB signaling cascade. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/mnfr.201300307