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      Potential Synergy of Phytochemicals in Cancer Prevention: Mechanism of Action

      1
      The Journal of Nutrition
      Oxford University Press (OUP)

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          Abstract

          Epidemiological studies have consistently shown that regular consumption of fruits and vegetables is strongly associated with reduced risk of developing chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. It is now widely believed that the actions of the antioxidant nutrients alone do not explain the observed health benefits of diets rich in fruits and vegetables, because taken alone, the individual antioxidants studied in clinical trials do not appear to have consistent preventive effects. Work performed by our group and others has shown that fruits and vegetable phytochemical extracts exhibit strong antioxidant and antiproliferative activities and that the major part of total antioxidant activity is from the combination of phytochemicals. We proposed that the additive and synergistic effects of phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables are responsible for these potent antioxidant and anticancer activities and that the benefit of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is attributed to the complex mixture of phytochemicals present in whole foods. This explains why no single antioxidant can replace the combination of natural phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables to achieve the health benefits. The evidence suggests that antioxidants or bioactive compounds are best acquired through whole-food consumption, not from expensive dietary supplements. We believe that a recommendation that consumers eat 5 to 10 servings of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables daily is an appropriate strategy for significantly reducing the risk of chronic diseases and to meet their nutrient requirements for optimum health.

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          Most cited references27

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          Effects of a combination of beta carotene and vitamin A on lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.

          Lung cancer and cardiovascular disease are major causes of death in the United States. It has been proposed that carotenoids and retinoids are agents that may prevent these disorders. We conducted a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled primary prevention trial -- the Beta Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial -- involving a total of 18,314 smokers, former smokers, and workers exposed to asbestos. The effects of a combination of 30 mg of beta carotene per day and 25,000 IU of retinol (vitamin A) in the form of retinyl palmitate per day on the primary end point, the incidence of lung cancer, were compared with those of placebo. A total of 388 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed during the 73,135 person-years of follow-up (mean length of follow-up, 4.0 years). The active-treatment group had a relative risk of lung cancer of 1.28 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.04 to 1.57; P=0.02), as compared with the placebo group. There were no statistically significant differences in the risks of other types of cancer. In the active-treatment group, the relative risk of death from any cause was 1.17 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.03 to 1.33); of death from lung cancer, 1.46 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.07 to 2.00); and of death from cardiovascular disease, 1.26 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.99 to 1.61). On the basis of these findings, the randomized trial was stopped 21 months earlier than planned; follow-up will continue for another 5 years. After an average of four years of supplementation, the combination of beta carotene and vitamin A had no benefit and may have had an adverse effect on the incidence of lung cancer and on the risk of death from lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and any cause in smokers and workers exposed to asbestos.
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            Health benefits of fruit and vegetables are from additive and synergistic combinations of phytochemicals.

            Cardiovascular disease and cancer are ranked as the first and second leading causes of death in the United States and in most industrialized countries. Regular consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with reduced risks of cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, Alzheimer disease, cataracts, and some of the functional declines associated with aging. Prevention is a more effective strategy than is treatment of chronic diseases. Functional foods that contain significant amounts of bioactive components may provide desirable health benefits beyond basic nutrition and play important roles in the prevention of chronic diseases. The key question is whether a purified phytochemical has the same health benefit as does the whole food or mixture of foods in which the phytochemical is present. Our group found, for example, that the vitamin C in apples with skin accounts for only 0.4% of the total antioxidant activity, suggesting that most of the antioxidant activity of fruit and vegetables may come from phenolics and flavonoids in apples. We propose that the additive and synergistic effects of phytochemicals in fruit and vegetables are responsible for their potent antioxidant and anticancer activities, and that the benefit of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables is attributed to the complex mixture of phytochemicals present in whole foods.
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              Lack of effect of long-term supplementation with beta carotene on the incidence of malignant neoplasms and cardiovascular disease.

              Observational studies suggest that people who consume more fruits and vegetables containing beta carotene have somewhat lower risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and earlier basic research suggested plausible mechanisms. Because large randomized trials of long duration were necessary to test this hypothesis directly, we conducted a trial of beta carotene supplementation. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of beta carotene (50 mg on alternate days), we enrolled 22,071 male physicians, 40 to 84 years of age, in the United States; 11 percent were current smokers and 39 percent were former smokers at the beginning of the study in 1982. By December 31, 1995, the scheduled end of the study, fewer than 1 percent had been lost to follow-up, and compliance was 78 percent in the group that received beta carotene. Among 11,036 physicians randomly assigned to receive beta carotene and 11,035 assigned to receive placebo, there were virtually no early or late differences in the overall incidence of malignant neoplasms or cardiovascular disease, or in overall mortality. In the beta carotene group, 1273 men had any malignant neoplasm (except nonmelanoma skin cancer), as compared with 1293 in the placebo group (relative risk, 0.98; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.91 to 1.06). There were also no significant differences in the number of cases of lung cancer (82 in the beta carotene group vs. 88 in the placebo group); the number of deaths from cancer (386 vs. 380), deaths from any cause (979 vs. 968), or deaths from cardiovascular disease (338 vs. 313); the number of men with myocardial infarction (468 vs. 489); the number with stroke (367 vs. 382); or the number with any one of the previous three end points (967 vs. 972). Among current and former smokers, there were also no significant early or late differences in any of these end points. In this trial among healthy men, 12 years of supplementation with beta carotene produced neither benefit nor harm in terms of the incidence of malignant neoplasms, cardiovascular disease, or death from all causes.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                The Journal of Nutrition
                Oxford University Press (OUP)
                0022-3166
                1541-6100
                December 2004
                December 01 2004
                December 2004
                December 01 2004
                : 134
                : 12
                : 3479S-3485S
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Department of Food Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
                Article
                10.1093/jn/134.12.3479S
                15570057
                07247a07-924a-4535-b338-c7d3b31dc7e1
                © 2004
                History

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