A compound that can be found in parsley, celery and camomile tea could halt the spread of cancer cells, scientists claim.
Unlike normal cells, cancer cells have a 'superpower' to escape death and can inhibit the processes that should cause them to die on a regular basis.
However, in a statement, researchers from Ohio State University explain that ‘apigenin’, which can be found in certain plant-based foods, can take away cancer this ‘superpower’.
Scientists suggest that apigenin essentially re-educates cancer cells into normal cells that will die as scheduled.
Parsley, celery and camomile tea are the most common sources of apigenin, but it is also found in many fruits and vegetables common in a Mediterranean diet.
"We know we need to eat healthfully, but in most cases we don't know the actual mechanistic reasons for why we need to do that," said Andrea Doseff, associate professor of internal medicine and molecular genetics at Ohio State and a co-lead author of the study, in a statement.
"We see here that the beneficial effect on health is attributed to this dietary nutrient affecting many proteins. In its relationship with a set of specific proteins, apigenin re-establishes the normal profile in cancer cells. We think this can have great value clinically as a potential cancer-prevention strategy."
The research appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Here are more foods that researchers believe could help fight cancer
Green tea is rich in the polyphenol EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), which has been shown to slow the spread of breast cancer cells, according to breastcancer.org.
Cruciferous vegetables, but broccoli in particular, make for anti-cancer powerhouses thanks in part to a compound called sulforaphane that actually helps the body fight the spread of tumors. Recent research revealed the underlying reason: sulforaphane may inhibit an enzyme, called an HDAC, that works to suppress the body's tumor fighting ability, as we've previously reported. And sprouts are even more potent: three-day old broccoli sprouts have 20 to 50 times the sulforaphanes as mature broccoli, according to Johns Hopkins research. For more about the cancer fighting properties of all cruciferous vegetables, check HuffPost blogger Dr. Joel Fuhrman's analysis of cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy and more.
Garlic is considered a cancer-fighting food for several forms of the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute. One French study found that women who regularly ate garlic had a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer. Garlic's mild cousin, onions also had a protective effect, according to the study.
Pomegranates are known for their anti-cancer properties, thanks to a richness in anti-inflammatory antioxidants, polyphenols. But they may offer a specific benefit against breast cancer: research shows that a phytochemical found in abundance in pomegranates, called ellagitannins, interfere in the production of aromatase, an enzyme that, as HuffPost blogger Dr. Nalini Chilkov explained, "increases hormone production in breast tissue." That's important because breast cancer is hormone-dependent, meaning that it feeds off of hormones like estrogen to grow and spread. "Hormone dependent cancers such as breast cancer are commonly treated with aromatase inhibitors, which block this enzyme," wrote Chilkov.
Although preliminary, research in mice has found that including walnuts in a healthful diet throughout the entire lifespan reduced the risk of developing breast cancer by half.
Curcumin, the compound in turmeric, may play a role in blocking the expression of a molecule called RANKL, which is found in the most deadly and aggressive breast cancer tumor cells.
Berries have several powerful antioxidants, primarily anthocyanins and ellagic acid, which have been shown in cell culture studies to reduce free radical damage to healthy cells, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. In separate research, they were shown to slow the growth and shorten the lifespan of breast cancer (as well as mouth, colon and prostate cancer) cells.
Most research regarding flax's anti-cancer properties has been done in mice or in-vitro cell cultures, but what it shows could be profound: in one study, according to the American Cancer Society, the lignans found in flax slowed the movement and "stickiness" of breast cancer cells, causing it to spread more slowly in a cell culture simulation.
Tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which is thought to slow breast cancer cell growth.