The fruit seed findings are just one of several food-related health findings presented yesterday at the American Chemical Society meeting in San Francisco. Yu's group also examined the possibility of using enzymes to improve the health benefits of whole wheat--the most consumed cereal grain in the world. Using a commercially available solid-state enzyme known as Ultraflo L on Akron wheat, the researchers increased the available amounts of two antioxidants in the wheat bran. "Most bioactive compounds are concentrated in bran," Yu notes.
The goodness of wheat may be concentrated in bran, but the goodness of fruit seems evenly blended. Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute showed that cranberry juice, a popular cure for urinary tract infections, contain tannins known as proanthocyanidins that can prevent E. coli from establishing an infection. The tannins had multiple effects on the bacteria, including changing its shape, altering its cell membranes and interfering with its intracellular communication.
But it is orange juice--specifically, the juice of the Satsuma mandarin orange of Japan--that showed the most powerful result: keeping hepatitis-C infected patients from developing liver cancer. The orange has unusually high levels of an antioxidant known as beta-cryptoxanthin. This compound, when painted on to mice with skin cancer, reduced tumors significantly and, when fed to rats with colon cancers, cut tumor development. Also, 30 hepatitis C patients who drank 190 milliliters of mandarin orange juice fortified with extra beta-cryptoxanthin to a three-milligram level failed to develop liver cancer compared with 8.9 percent of 45 patients who did not drink the juice. "This is very cheap, and it seems it works," says Hoyoku Nishino of Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, who led the research, which will continue for four more years.
Such research into so-called nutraceuticals or functional foods has proved a boon for pharmaceutical research directions as well as immediate treatment. An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but it might not hurt to add a mandarin orange, a fruit seed flour muffin, whole wheat toast and some cranberry juice, too.