Could chocolate dipped fruit lower your colon cancer risk? Does that basket of chocolate dipped strawberries you bought as a Valentine's present have the right balance of antioxidants and flavonoids to counteract tumor development?
In addition to regular colon cancer screenings (recommended every 10 years after the age of 50), people can lower their chances of developing cancer with a healthy lifestyle and diet. According to WebMD, fruits, vegetables and whole grains have long been considered key components of a colon cancer prevention diet, but based on recent reports, it seems as if chocolate should be added to the list as well. A study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research found that the phytochemical compounds that are abundant in cocoa can inhibit tumor formation.
"Foods like cocoa, which is rich in polyphenols, seem to play an important role in protecting against disease," said María Ángeles Martín Arribas, lead author of the study and researcher at the Institute of Food Science and Technology and Nutrition (ICTAN).
Scientists from ICTAN fed rats a diet full of cocoa (12 percent) over the course of eight weeks before chemically inducing cancer. The rats that had been eating a fair amount of cocoa showed fewer cysts, less oxidative damage and higher antioxidant activity compared to other test groups. The research team concluded that the bioactive compounds in cocoa were able to block cell-proliferation pathways and therefore slow down cancerous growth.
Procyanidins, catechins and epicatechins are some of the most active flavonoids in cocoa, which offer numerous health benefits in addition to cancer prevention, such as stopping the development of cardiovascular diseases. The researchers note that the flavonoids in cocoa are better able to transfer their health boosting properties than their counterparts in other foods because they can safely reach the intestine where they can stop oxidants from causing damage.
If further study corroborates the theory that cocoa can effectively prevent colon cancer, the number of people affected by the disease may begin to decrease thanks to dietary changes. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most prevalent cancer in the United States, not including skin cancers. In 2011, there were an estimated 141,210 new cases of colon and rectal cancer, according to the non-profit organization. The number of deaths due this disease has been on a steady decline for years, largely due to catching it early with the help of routine screening.