A recent study at Oregon State University found that chlorophyll in green vegetables offers strong protection against cancer when tested against modest carcinogen exposure levels, most likely to be found in the environment.
Interestingly however, chlorophyll actually increases the number of tumors at very high carcinogen exposure levels.
Not only confirming the value of chlorophyll, the new research also raises serious questions about whether traditional lab studies done with mice and high levels of toxic exposure are providing accurate answers to what is a real health risk, what isn’t, and what dietary and nutritional or pharmaceutical approaches are actually useful.
Laboratory mice studies are much more expensive, forcing the use of fewer specimens and higher carcinogen exposures.
“There’s considerable evidence in epidemiologic and other clinical studies with humans that chlorophyll and its derivative, chlorophyllin, can protect against cancer,” said researchers working at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.
“This study, like others before it, found that chlorophyll can reduce tumors, up to a point,” they explained. “But at very high doses of the same carcinogen, chlorophyll actually made the problem worse. This questions the value of an approach often used in studying cancer-causing compounds.”
Oregon State University experts in recent years have become pioneers in the use of rainbow trout as a model for biomedical research. The reason, in part because the fish react in similar ways to those of rodents, but also because scientists can use thousands of them instead of dozens of laboratory mice and they’re able to conduct research and experiments that would not otherwise be possible.
This study raises questions about a fundamental premise of most medical research… Typically, expose a laboratory animal to a compound at high levels, observe the result, and predict that a proportional amount of that same result would be present at low levels of exposure.
In one part of the study, the trout were exposed to fairly moderate levels of a known carcinogen, but also given chlorophyll. This reduced their number of liver tumors by 29 to 64 percent, and stomach tumors by 24 to 45 percent.
However, in another section of the study, using much higher (and unrealistic) doses of the same carcinogen, the use of chlorophyll caused a significant increase in the number of tumors.
It is important to recognize that traditional research with small numbers of animals fed very high doses of a carcinogen might conclude that chlorophyll has the potential to increase human cancer risk. This study, and other evidence and trials, concludes just the opposite.
It also found that the protective mechanism of chlorophyll is fairly simple… It has the ability to bind with and isolate carcinogens within the gastrointestinal tract until they are eliminated from the body. At the lower carcinogen doses and cancer rates realistically relevant to humans, chlorophyll was strongly protective.
“The central assumption of such experiments is that intervention effects at high carcinogen dose will apply equally at lower carcinogen doses,” the researchers wrote in their report.
“Contrary to the usual assumption, the outcomes in the major target organ were strikingly dependent on carcinogen dose.”
Oregon State University experts have argued that in some studies rainbow trout can produce better, more accurate, real-world results compared to traditional rodent animal models and relevant to humans, because many more specimens can be used and lower doses of toxins studied.
Experiments done with fish may be about 20 times less expensive and ultimately produce more scientifically valid results, they report.
“Results derived at high carcinogen doses and high tumor responses may be irrelevant for human intervention,” the scientists said in their conclusion.
This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
Story Source: Oregon State University
Journal Reference: Cancer chemo-prevention by dietary chlorophyll: A 12,000-animal dose-dose matrix biomarker and tumor study. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 2012;
Oregon State University (2012, January 12) “Chlorophyll can help prevent cancer but study raises other questions.”
This article is for informational and educational purposes only; It is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Consult your doctor or healthcare professional.
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