A vegetable dye appears to have the potential to protect passive smokers from tobacco-related lung cancer, according to a November 2016 study. The substance is found in oranges, red peppers, squash, and many other fruits and vegetables. It’s called beta-cryptoxanthin and it can reduce the number of receptors that nicotine docks to in order to accelerate tumor growth. This tip is particularly valuable for passive smokers because they do not want to – in contrast to smokers – expose this additional cancer risk factor.

The substance in fruits and vegetables protects the lungs from cancer

Nicotine is the addictive substance in tobacco and some e-cigarette liquids. It protects cancer cells, ensuring that they really blossom. To do this, the docks on to their receptors and in this way encourages them to grow more.

Dr. Xiang-Dong Wang is a cancer researcher at Tufts University in Boston. Since 2004 he has been researching carotenoids, the dyes that give color to many yellow and red fruits. Wang tries to find out why these substances can prevent so many chronic diseases. In particular, the carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin is the focus of his investigations. The substance is in z. In the following foods:

  • oranges
  • tangerines
  • pumpkins
  • Red peppers
  • in many other oranges, yellow and red fruits, and vegetables
  • and also in green leafy vegetables, where the dye is covered by green chlorophyll

The current study by Dr. med. Wang and team were published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research and described how beta-cryptoxanthin (BCX) reduces the number of nicotine receptors, thus reducing the motivating influence of nicotine on lung cancer cells.

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Lung cancer-the most dangerous type of cancer

Dr. Wang says the new research shows how well eating fruits and vegetables can reduce the lung cancer risk of (passive) smokers.

Lung cancer is the type of cancer that causes the highest mortality each year. In Germany, nearly 50,000 people get lung cancer each year. There is over 220,000 new lung cancer diagnosed annually in the US, and over 150,000 people die of it.

Smoking is considered one of the major risk factors for lung cancer. According to the American Lung Association, a man can increase his lung cancer risk 23fold if he smokes. In contrast, a smoker has an “only” 13 times higher lung cancer risk than non-smokers.

However, it is particularly bad that passive smoking alone in the US alone causes over 7,000 deaths each year. Here people have to suffer and die because other people smoke ruthlessly in their presence.

Nicotine accelerates tumor growth

Tobacco smoke contains 7,000 components, many of which are carcinogens that can cause severe damage to the cells of the lungs and bronchial mucosa. So far, nicotine has not been considered a direct cause of lung cancer. However, studies have since shown that the addictive substance can accelerate the growth of lung tumors. Nicotine is therefore even very heavily involved in the development of lung cancer.

For example, in 2013, Warren and Singh wrote in the Journal of Carcinogenesis that it has long been known how badly lung cancer therapies work if the patient continues to smoke. The reason for this is that nicotine and its metabolites accelerate tumor growth in many different ways. For example, angiogenesis is promoted (formation of blood vessels to the tumor, so that it is better supplied with nutrients), the resistance of the tumor to therapies and also directly to the metastasis.

Nicotine causes a strengthening of the cancer

Wang and colleagues have now discovered that nicotine binds to the receptors on the lung surface, leading directly to a signal cascade, which in turn results in rapid cell division of cancer cells and the formation of new blood vessels for tumor delivery (angiogenesis).

Not only that, nicotine can also increase the number of these receptors – and the more nicotine receptors there are, the better the cancerous effect of nicotine. However, as Wang and his team believe, BCX appears to be effective in reducing the number of these receptors, which could now also lead to shrinkage of the tumor.

The more carotenoids (passive) smokers eat, the better they are protected

In earlier studies, Wang’s team had discovered a link between the frequent consumption of BCX-rich foods and a lower lung cancer risk in humans. In animal studies, the suspicion confirmed: who received BCX, experienced shrinkage of his lung tumors by 52 to 63 percent. BCX levels that are similar in humans to one red pepper or two tangerines per day have been effective.

Cell experiments were also performed. It also showed that the cells scatter less frequently in the presence of BCX than without BCX. Who is damned – for whatever reason – to passive smokers, should absolutely eat as healthy as possible, taking care to eat as many carotenoid-rich foods daily as possible.

Many years ago, a study was published in which smokers were given beta-carotene – for the prevention of lung cancer. But then they did not get sick less often, but even more often with lung cancer. Once this unpleasant side effect was noticed, the study was stopped immediately and smokers were advised to stop taking beta-carotene. Meanwhile, however, it has come to the point where some people believe that dietary beta carotene (such as carrots) is harmful and can cause lung cancer. We explain how it behaves.

What is beta-carotene?

Beta carotene is a phytochemical in the carotenoid family. Carotenoids, in turn, are fat-soluble plant substances with yellow to red coloring. A diet rich in carotenoids is therefore used when the diet contains a high proportion of yellow and orange or even red vegetables.

Beta-carotene is the best known carotenoid. Hardly any other food is as rich as it is in carrots and kale. Although green cabbage is green and not yellow or orange, the green of chlorophyll covers the orange tones of beta-carotene.

Which carotenoids are there?

Other carotenoids are, for example

  • the alpha-carotene (eg in pumpkin and carrots),
  • Lycopene (especially in tomatoes),
  • the beta-cryptoxanthin (eg in pumpkin and red pepper),
  • lutein (eg in savoy cabbage, parsley, and kale),
  • Astaxanthin (produced by algae) and
  • the zeaxanthin (eg in red pepper).

All of them are considered to be powerful antioxidants that fight free radicals and oxidative stress and can thus prevent many diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, rheumatic diseases, eye diseases, as well as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and cancer.

Does beta carotene protect against lung cancer?

As late as the 1980s, beta carotene was considered very healthy by all people – whether they were smokers or not. In 1986, even a study on this topic appeared (1,266 participants). They found that smokers who did not eat carrots had a three-fold higher risk of lung cancer than smokers who ate carrots at least once a week. A significantly increased risk of lung cancer also existed for those who only liked little green leafy vegetables. Liver and cheese (vitamin A) did not appear to have a protective effect because those who did not have either had no increased risk of ever developing lung cancer.

Another study (1,663 participants) in the same year showed similar, namely that a carotenoid-rich diet, in particular, smokers protected against lung cancer.

But who wants to bother with all the vegetables? So at least the thought of many smokers, who on the whole rather seldom eat health-conscious. However, since lung cancer is a desirable target for her and smoking cessation is rarely up for debate, the obvious solution was: why not simply take a beta-carotene pill every day? Because it was known that a high level of beta-carotene in the blood reduced the risk of lung cancer. So you could safely take the beta carotene in pill form.

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Beta-carotene in pill form increases the risk of lung cancer

In 1996, a study on beta-carotene pills, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, was quickly launched. More than 29,000 men between the ages of 50 and 69 who smoked more than 5 cigarettes a day took 50 mg of vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol ), 20 mg beta carotene, or both, or a placebo supplement for an average of 6 years.

Regarding vitamin E, there was no effect on lung cancer risk. Beta-carotene, however, appeared to increase lung cancer risk (but only slightly), especially in heavy smokers (more than 20 cigarettes per day) compared to smokers who smoked less. Even in men who also indulged in higher alcohol consumption, was due to the beta carotene intake an increased risk of lung cancer.

Study stop because of frequent lung cancer cases

Similar results were obtained by the so-called CARET study, which was published in the same year. Here, over 18,000 participants were given 30 mg beta-carotene daily and 25,000 IU vitamin A or placebo. The study had to be stopped after just 21 months, as the beta carotene group had 28 percent more lung cancers and 17 percent more deaths. The participants of the study were smokers, former smokers or asbestos workers, ie all those with a high risk of lung cancer.

At the same time, there were also studies that did not show any disadvantages after taking beta-carotene, such as the study that also appeared in 1996 (in the New England Journal of Medicine) and found that:

Beta-carotene in pill form does not always harm

More than 22,000 healthy men between the ages of 40 and 84 took 50 mg beta-carotene or placebo every other day for 12 years. These included smokers as well as former smokers and non-smokers. At the end of the 12 years, however, no significant differences in cancer risk, cardiovascular or mortality risk could be identified. In the beta-nicotine group, even fewer men had lung cancer than the placebo group (82 versus 88), which was not statistically significant.

Three years later (1999), a study of nearly 40,000 healthy women – whether smokers or non-smokers – found that dietary supplementation with 50 mg beta-carotene every other day for an average of 2.1 years does not affect the risk of cancer or cardiovascular disease even the mortality had.

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