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Açai, one of the latest, hot new health food discoveries from the Amazon rainforest, boasts some impressive credentials as a source of omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, vitamins A, C, and E, and more than 50 other antioxidants, especially anthocyanin—the powerhouse pigment found in red wine and blueberries.
Proponents of açai (ah-sigh-EE), which is actually the purplish fruit of Euterpe oleracea, a short palm found in abundance in Brazil, claim this superfood lowers bad cholesterol and increases the good, boosts the immune system, fights infections, protects the heart, and possibly controls prostate enlargement. With the publication of a new study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, they might be able to add “fights cancer” to that list as well.
The study, conducted at the University of Florida, tested the effect of pure açai juice—stripped of any lipids (EFAs) and cellulose material—on HL-60 human leukemia cells in vitro. Researchers also evaluated five other extracts or “fractions” of the fruit, which contained different mixtures of antioxidants, for their effect on leukemia cells. They found that the extracts “reduce cell proliferation from 56-86 percent,” most likely by damaging the cells enough to cause them to self-destruct (apoptosis). This anticancer activity compares favorably with that of the chemotherapy drug, camptotechin.
Unfortunately you can’t run out and stock up on açai fruit—it’s too perishable to export. But the fruit juice is available nationwide.
In fact, the Florida study was funded by Bossa Nova Beverage Group, which recently began marketing pure açai juice. The company is underwriting additional research into the potential health benefits of açai utilizing in vivo studies at the University of Florida.
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