Grapeseed extract shows promise in prevention of cancer
Albert Einstein once said "Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."
In regards to the prevention and treatment of cancer, we are discovering that the foods we eat may have significant impact. A case in point is grapeseed extract.
Over the past 10 years, a number of medical studies have demonstrated that grapeseed extract, at least in animal models, can have significant impact on a number of different cancers. Although there are no compelling human clinical studies, grapeseed extract in the animal models of cancer are quite positive.
Grapeseed extract, as the name implies, comes from grapeseed. This particular product is very rich in a number of vitamins, as well as other biologically active compounds such as flavonoids, procyanidins and resveratrol.
Although most of the research into grapeseed extract has been done in animal models, grapeseed extract seems to have a positive effect throughout the entire body.
For example, in animals it has been shown to increase bone density. There is some data indicating that it also is effective at preventing tooth decay and reducing blood pressure. It does exhibit some antibacterial and antiviral activity in a test tube.
Most importantly, grapeseed extract seems to retard cancer cell growth both in the test tube and in animal models. A number of studies over the years have demonstrated that it inhibits the growth of cancer cell lines of lung, breast, prostate and colon cancers.
Some of the most interesting anticancer research has explored the aromatase-inhibiting activity of grapeseed extract and its effect on breast cancer cell growth. One older study published in 2006 demonstrated that grapeseed extract has significant aromatase-inhibiting activity and suppresses the growth of breast cancer cells in the mouse model for breast cancer.
Aromatase is an enzyme that, basically, converts testosterone into estrogen. Many types of breast cancer are stimulated by estrogen and have a very active aromatase enzyme system.
In traditional medicine some chemotherapy agents inhibit the activity of the aromatase enzyme and through that inhibition slow or prevent the growth of estrogen-sensitive breast cancer cells.
This 2006 study, published in Cancer Research, demonstrated that grapeseed extract has significant aromatase-inhibiting activity and greatly reduced the growth of breast cancer cells in mice that are genetically designed to develop breast cancer.
Since this study was published, dozens of other studies have demonstrated that many plants inhibit aromatase activity and may be beneficial for the prevention and treatment of a number of different cancers including breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer.
Even though grapeseed extract may inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells, I do not endorse it as sole treatment for breast cancer.
In addition, there is always concern as to how grapeseed extract affects medications, even though the current data indicates that it is quite safe. A medical physician, board-certified in integrative medicine would be able to provide the best recommendations for the use of grapeseed extract during chemotherapy.
• Patrick B. Massey, MD, PH.D., is medical director for complementary and alternative medicine at Alexian Brothers Hospital Network and president of ALT-MED Medical and Physical Therapy, 1544 Nerge Road, Elk Grove Village. His website is www.alt-med.org.