Cancer: A deadly disease in focus [Archives:2004/721/Health]

March 18 2004

By Dr. Ali Abdulbari Haza
[email protected]

During the period 1995-2003, I observed that the number of Yemeni patients who are suffering from cancer has drastically increased. According to my knowledge, the kind of diet and synthetic pesticides play an important role in causing and inducing cancer. Therefore Yemenis should know how to protect their bodies by using plant-based foods as weapons against cancer and heart attack diseases. And this can only happen if we study why and how cancer develops and this is what I will try to do here.
We have millions of oxygen molecules in our bodies, and they easily become unstable. When that happens, they become like sawyers, ready to take a bite out of the cells that make up your skin, blood vessels, internal organs, or any other part of your body. These sawyers, these unstable and dangerous oxygen molecules, are called free radicals. They can even attack your chromosomes. When oxygen free radicals damage chromosomes, cells can lose their ability to control their basic functions. They can begin to multiply out of control and that is the beginning of cancer.
Plants can be damaged by some of oxygen free radicals, too. So nature has given them the ability to produce natural compounds “antioxidants” that act like shields to defend against these wild oxygen molecules. You can see why these natural compounds are called “antioxidants” because they protect the plant from oxygen free radicals. And when you eat plants, their antioxidants enter your bloodstream and act to protect you, too. When all goes well, the free radicals (the unstable oxygen molecules) attack the antioxidants and leave your cells and chromosomes alone.
Phytochemicals are plant-based compounds that may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anticarcinogenic, and/or vasodilatory properties. These properties offer potential health benefits. Antioxidants may have a role in the prevention of heart disease and cancer.
Those present in plant-based foods include the carotenoids (e.g. B-carotene, lycopene), the flavonoids (e.g. flavonols, flavanols), the antioxidant vitamins, vitamins C (ascorbic acid) and E (tocopherol), and micronutrients (e.g. selenium, sulfur compounds). The accumulation of phenolics which behave as antioxidants are found to be more in vegetables resistant to some diseases caused by fungi.
All grains contain tocotrienols, which are known to inhibit cancer, reduce cholesterol, and have positive effects on factors leading to heart disease. The bran of grains contains about 75 percent of all the phytonutrients. With the bran layer and the germ go most of the nutrients, including the fiber.
One of the best-known antioxidants which provide vitamin A is available in orange-colored and dark green vegetables.
Green and black tea are excellent sources of polyphenols)plant chemicals (phytochemicals) with powerful antioxidant properties.
Vitamin E and the mineral selenium are also part of your antioxidant arsenal. Like betacarotene and lycopene, they protect each cell's outer membrane from free radical attacks. Vitamin E is found in legumes (beans), whole grains, and plants rich in natural oils.
Vitamin C is a powerful and well-known antioxidant. What are the best foods for vitamin C? Well, citrus fruits are famous for it, but you'll find surprisingly large amounts in many vegetables like guava, red bell pepper, orange juice, strawberries, etc. It is reported that the content of vitamin C estimated from infected tomato plant by fungus Altarnaria solani was more in resistant tomato varieties compared to the susceptible ones.
Lycopene is a bright red pigment, providing the color for tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit.
A study at Harvard University showed that men who had just two servings of tomato sauce per week had 23 percent less chance of prostate cancer risk, compared to those who rarely ate tomato products.