A dessert a day keeps the doctor away?

By: Erin Stackowitz, Staff Writer



Finally, science has bestowed on us answers to the questions we really want to know and has given us a valid justification for eating ourselves into a sugar coma more frequently then we would like to admit. Once and for all, we can say the things we have been telling ourselves for years with truth and gumption: It is okay, chocolate is good for you! Or how much harm can that extra doughnut really do?

The truth in these statements can be found in a recently published journal article in Nature by researchers at the Beijing University of Agriculture. The article is titled, A natural food sweetener with anti-pancreatic cancer properties and highlights how a Chinese plant-turned food sweetener shows anti-cancer properties.

Cancer, a disease that is the result of unregulated and uncontrolled cell growth, is a condition that most of the human population is all too familiar with. It has created a threat to human health and is one of the leading causes of death among Americans. Knowing the severity of this disease, it has become the priority of many researchers and institutions to increase the efficacy of cancer drugs and to hone in on the mechanisms that cause cancer.

Although a myriad of drugs are available to those suffering from cancer, these drugs are far from perfect and often come with lasting negative side effects. Thus, the need for a new drug with fewer side effects is a major focus of oncology research.

When seeking novel remedies, researchers sometimes pursue unconventional avenues as a source of potential antidotes. Thousands of years of proven clinical success within traditional Chinese medicine has forced researchers to turn their heads and look to plants and herbs as prospective pharmaceuticals.

Because of this, scientists are starting to screen single compounds that have particularly high efficacy in Chinese herbal medicines in order to develop new anti-cancer drugs. One of these highly efficient curative plants commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine is Siraitia grosvenorii, an endemic plant in China that is mainly grown in the Guangxi province. Since 1997, the Chinese Ministry of Health approved S. grosvenorii saponins as a sweetener in various types of foods and is several hundredfold sweeter than sucrose.

Recently, S. grosvenorii became one of the first groups of “Medicinal and Edible” drugs included in the Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China. The sweeteners antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and sugar-reducing potentials are being heavily researched, with the most promise being found with pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is a malignant disease that affects glucose metabolism. Researchers recently discovered that mogroside V extracted from S. grosvenorii inhibited pancreatic cancer cell proliferation and survival through a mechanistic pathway both in vivo and in vitro.

These results indicate that mogroside V may be a promising anticancer drug for daily use with relatively few side effects. The potential for this drug is still in the beginning stages, but at least now we can eat our desserts with a little less shame and a little more confidence.

(Source: Liu, C., L-H Dai, D-Q Dou, L-Q Ma, and Y-X Sun. “A Natural Food Sweetener with Anti-pancreatic Cancer Properties.” Oncogenesis 5.4 (2016): n. pag. Web.)

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