That spicy food you’re eating may help you fight cancer.
Researchers at the UCSD School of Medicine have found that capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers, may in the end help prevent colorectal tumors.
The researchers said in a news release that the ingredient was found in studies to activate a receptor on cells in the intestines of mice, which leads to a reaction that can reduce the risk of the tumors.
The findings were published in the Aug. 1 issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Capsaicin – which won’t surprise any of you pepper fans – causes a burning sensation in contact with the tissues of not just us, but all mammals. It is the main ingredient in pepper spray too.
Given that, it’s surprising at first that it’s often used as an analgesic in topical ointments, where it leaves nerves unable to send pain signals, comforting those who have suffered cuts or scrapes.
The researchers say that receptors in the body known as TRPV1 can be found in the intestine and work in concert with a another receptor called EGFR. Unrestrained EGFR activity can lead to a risk of tumor growth. They noted that if mice are genetically modified to be deficient in TRPV1, they suffered increased rates of intestinal tumors.
As part of their study, the researchers fed capsaicin to mice genetically prone to developing gastrointestinal tumors. The treatment resulted in reduced tumors and extended the lifespans of the mice by more than 30 percent, they said.
They also found the treatment became more effective when combined with other drugs on the market, such as celecoxib, a non-steroid drug to combat arthritis and other pain.
“Our data suggest that individuals at high risk of developing recurrent intestinal tumors may benefit” from this approach said Dr. Eyal Raz, a UCSD professor of medicine.
They also called for further study of the links between TRPV1 and colorectal cancer.
The study includes co-authors from the UCSD Department of Medicine, the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology and Rabin Medical Center and Tel Aviv University in Israel.
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