Contact: Zoe Dunford
Norwich BioScience Institutes
Scientists have found a new possible explanation for why people who
eat more fruit and vegetables may gain protection against the spread of
They have shown that a fragment released from pectin,
found in all fruits and vegetables, binds to and is believed to inhibit
galectin 3 (Gal3), a protein that plays a role in all stages of cancer
"Most claims for the anticancer effects of foods
are based on population studies," says Professor Vic Morris from the
Institute of Food Research. "For this research we tested a molecular
mechanism and showed that it is viable."
such as EPIC, the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer,
identified a strong link between eating lots of fibre and a lower risk
of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. But exactly how fibre exerts
a protective effect is unknown.
Pectin is better known for
its jam-setting qualities and as being a component of dietary fibre.
The present study supports a more exciting and subtle role.
between dietary carbohydrates and mammalian proteins, of which this
research is an example, may provide an explanation. Other food
carbohydrates such as beta glucans are considered to be bioactive and
their anti-cancer action can be attributed to different types of
carbohydrate - mammalian protein interactions.
"For a whole
combination of different effects it is best to consistently eat a range
of fruits, vegetables and high-fibre foods," says Professor Morris.
"You don't necessarily have to eat a superfood."
stage of Prof Morris' research is to identify how pectin can be taken
up by the body and released so it can exert its effect on cancer cells.
The research could result in functional foods with added bioactive
pectin as well as providing more conclusive evidence for the importance
of a eating at least your '5-a-day'.
"This first step opens the way to a new and exciting area of research in bioactive carbohydrates", says Professor Morris.
The research, published in
The FASEB Journal, was funded through IFR's Core Strategic Grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).