Phytonutrients / Phytochemicals (category of natural plant chemicals)

Phytonutrients / Phytochemicals (category of natural plant chemicals)

Phytochemicals are special kinds of nutrients that are found in plants. There are thousands of phytochemicals that have not yet been identified, much less tested for cancer prevention or cancer treatment properties. In spite of that, it is clear that phytochemicals are the future of medicine and health. Phytochemicals have been found to have far better antioxidant properties than any vitamin. Some of them have amazing cancer treatment capabilities (e.g. those found in purple grape juice, the graviola tree, Noni juice, herbs, etc.). Unfortunately, most research into phytochemicals is controlled by the pharmaceutical industry, which has no interest in natural treatments for anything (their interest is in mutating natural substances). Thus, much of the information about phytochemicals is suppressed. Our government, which is also controlled by Big Pharma, is equally uninterested in natural substances.


One of today's major nutritional discoveries is phytonutrients -- natural substances that give plants their characteristic flavor, color, aroma and resistance to disease. Phytonutrients -- also called phytochemicals -- are thousands of disease-fighting chemicals unique to plants. Stephen Felice, MD coined the term "nutraceuticals" to describe the pharmaceutical action of phytonutrients.

The National Academy of Sciences estimates that 60 per cent of women's cancers and 40 per cent of men's cancers are nutritionally related. Renowned cancer researcher Dr Patrick Quillin states that "proper nutrition could prevent 50 to 90 per cent of all cancers."

Laboratory research is quickly identifying phytonutrients and confirming their health benefits. As a result, the powerful medicinal properties of foods such as alfalfa, broccoli, caulifower, barley grass, wheat grass, soy, carrots, flax seed and beets -- to name a few -- are being Used to prevent and treat cancer. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in North America and is expected to be the leading killer by the year 2001.

Today's Deathly Diet

The typical diet lacks nutritional value and is low in cancer preventing phytochemicals and vitamins. The following study of 11,658 adults -- questioned on their diets over a 24 hour period -- demonstrates this point:

- 41 per cent did not eat any fruit

- 72 per cent did not eat fruits or vegetables rich in vitamin C

- 82 per cent did not eat cruciferous vegetables, which contain valuable anticancer phytonutrients

The National Cancer Institute has invested well over $20 million in recent years to investigate the anticancer properties of plant foods. Foods with high anticancer activity include soybeans, garlic, ginger, cabbage, carrots, celery, cilantro, parsley, parsnips and licorice. Those rated as having moderate levels of anticancer activity include citrus fruits, onions, flax, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers, turmeric, brown rice and whole wheat. Measurable anticancer activity was found in oats, barley, rosemary, mint, thyme, oregano, sage, basil, cucumber, cantaloupe and berries.

These foods contain a host of anticancer phytochemicals: isoflavones in soybeans; allyl sulfides in garlic and onions; phytates in grains and legumes; glucarates in citrus, grains and nightshade vegetables; carotenoids in fruits, vegetables and algae; lignans in flax and soybeans; and chlorophyll in green vegetables and algae.
Phytonutrients appear to have an anticancer effect on estrogen dependent cancers such as certain types of breast and uterine cancers. I3C (indole 3 carbinol), is found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts. This substance appears to shift the metabolic pathway so estrogen can no longer be activated, thus decreasing cancer risk.

Sulforaphane is found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower. These phytonutrients have been shown to decrease breast cancers in animals. Sulforaphane helps break down or detoxify cancer-causing compounds. In fact, one of the leading sulforaphane researchers, Paul Talay, states it is "possibly the most protective agent (against cancer) yet discovered."

Soy to the Rescue -- Again

Phytoestrogens prevent hormone-dependent tumors. An excellent example is soy isoflavones. Research has shown that soybeans contain various anticancer phytochemicals. It has been well publicized that Asian populations (who consume large amount of soy foods) have a lower rate of breast, colon, uterine and prostate cancer than North Americans. Dietary soybean consumption is believed to contribute to the low rate of breast cancer in Japanese women and prostate cancer in Japanese men.

A review of 861 articles related to soy products and diets with high phytoestrogen content concluded that phytoestrogens are among the dietary factors that protect against cancer and Knights Against Cancer heart disease in vegetarians. Soy contains two important isoflavones known as genistein and diadzein. In the body, these substances are converted to phytoestrogens that affect hormone metabolism and estrogen activity in a protective manner. Interestingly, it appears that if the estrogen levels are too high, the isoflavones have a blocking effect on the uptake of estrogen by cells, thus minimizing growth of estrogen dependent tumors.

Another class of therapeutic phytonutrients is flavonoids -- many of which contribute to the spectacular color of plants. You may have heard of citrus bioflavonoids such as rutin, quercetin, and hesperedin. Other flavonoid-rich supplements include grape seed extract, green tea and ginkgo biloba.

Many researchers feel that flavonoids are an efficient and reliable strategy for reducing the risk of cancer. Flavonoids have demonstrated potent antioxidant activity and are being studied for their anticancer properties. Flavonoids such as catechin (present in green tea) have been shown to block the invasion of cancer cells in test tube studies.

Go for the Green!

Green tea is one of the most potent sources of phytonutrients that protect against and fight cancer. It contains what are known as "polyphenols" -- potent antioxidants that protect cells from damage and also improve cellular detoxification. Studies have shown green tea to prevent cancers of the lung, breast, prostate, liver, skin, esophagus and colon. As well, studies in Japanese and Chinese hospitals show green tea to be effective in reducing the side effects of chemotherapy. and radiation treatments. Specific, white blood cells (good immune cells that prevent infection and fight cancer) were much improved when people under conventional treatments consumed green tea. This helped prevent infections, a common side effect of chemotherapy and radiation. Researchers noted the polyphenols in green tea also helped with cellular detoxification.

It is best to get required nutrients and phytonutrients from our diet. Unfortunately, I have found many of my patients have difficulty consuming the five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables which prevent cancer. Hectic lifestyles, pollutants and a lack of focus on proper dietary habits lead to increased cancer susceptibility. Supergreen foods such as barley grass, wheat grass, chlorella, spirulina an others need to be consumed on a regular basis for their detoxifying chlorophyll content and anticancer phytonutrients There are many good "green drinks" available to consumers. Remember, this is only a supplement, not a replacement to increasing whole foods in the diet.

Phytonutrients are found in whole plant foods. They are absolutely critical for cant prevention and treatment. Phytonutrients decrease the risk of cancer by positively influencing estrogen metabolism and excretion, activating enzymes that break down or detoxifying cancerous agents and have a general blocking effect on cancer formation due to their antioxidant protection.

Article copyright Canadian Health Reform Products Ltd.
By Mark Stengler

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