A study published in the journal Nutrients, a peer-reviewed scientific publication, in November 2016 looked at the potential role of citrus fruits in preventing and even treating cancer. The paper by Italian researchers synthesized the results of 285 previous studies into phytochemicals and their effects on disease from all over the world, with citrus fruits as their focus.
From the abstract:
The findings discussed in this review strongly support their potential as anti-cancer agents, and may represent a scientific basis to develop nutraceuticals, food supplements, or complementary and alternative drugs in a context of a multi-target pharmacological strategy in the oncology.
How does it work?
The consumption of vegetables and fruits in general has long been associated with a reduced risk of many diseases, including cancer. The whys and wherefores have been more difficult to pin down. It is thought that certain bioactive molecules may have the following effects:
• Inhibiting the activation of cancer cells;
• Stimulating the processes where early cancer cells can be neutralized and eliminated;
• Scavenging free radicals, which cause a cascade of damage at the cellular level;
• Inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells and the processes that support them.
The bioactive compounds are flavonoids – the nutrients that result in each fruit’s unique color and flavor. The connection between flavonoids and cancer prevention has been explored in recent years.
Citrus fruits are an important component of diets in many regions of the world, in particular, as winter fruits in seasonal climates. The paper notes that many studies showed promising anti-cancer effects. Citrus flavonoids act as free radical scavengers, and play a key role in the way that cells survive – or not.
Many issues remain to be clarified, due to the often complex way that flavonoids are metabolized by the body. Do those metabolites in turn have beneficial properties? Is bio-availability a key factor, or not? The paper’s authors believe that this complex reaction of the body may indicate that the beneficial qualities are due not only to the flavonoids, but to those molecules as part of consuming the whole fruit.
In their conclusion, they note:
On the bases of several preclinical and epidemiological studies summarized in this review, we believe that regular intake of CF and their derivatives, linked to a healthy life style, might be an important way to reduce cancer risk.