Cancer-Fighting Berries

By Mariam Digges

For the first time, scientists have unearthed cancer-fighting properties in the compounds that give berries their vivid colour.

Although it’s still to early to determine just which berries are the best cancer-fighters, researchers at the Ohio State University have conducted a study on two families of pigments, called anthocyanins, exposing them to human saliva to see what health-promoting properties were able to survive.

The study showed that the bacteria, which lives in the mouth, are actually responsible for the breakdown of these compounds, but has yet to decipher whether it’s the berry pigments themselves, or the products of their degradation that contain the health-promoting properties.

Scientists are hoping the findings will contribute to the development of disease-fighting sweets and chewing gum, which will hopefully fend off oral cancers and periodontal diseases.

They studied pigments from blueberries, chokeberries, black raspberries, red grapes and strawberries, exposing them to the saliva collected from 14 people. Black raspberries had the most positive health benefits.

“All fruits are unique because their chemical composition, or fingerprint, varies,” said Mark Failla, professor of human nutrition at Ohio State and interim chair of the Department of Human Sciences. 

“There are many different edible berries. Some might be better for providing health-promoting effects within the oral cavity, whereas others may be more beneficial for colonic health. We simply do not know at this time.

“Increased intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with decreased risk of some chronic diseases. An understanding of the metabolism of these compounds, and the relative activities of the compounds in the consumed fruit and their metabolic products, is needed to make scientifically sound dietary recommendations and to develop effective delivery vehicles for the mouth,” Failla said.

For lots of delicious berry recipes, head to our recipe section, and type ‘berries’ into the keywords. 


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