Cancer treatment often involves chemotherapy and other toxic drugs, but a recent study again suggests hope of an organic approach.
In the study, Ajay Goel, director of gastrointestinal research at the Baylor Scott & White Research Institute, found that grape seed extract can fight colon cancer.
Any benefits in grapes were long thought to be found in the skin and the pulp. Both have certain flavonoids, antioxidant activities and some anti-inflammatory properties, which help overall health. But Goel says there are thousands of years of historical evidence showing that grape seeds also have some medicinal benefits.
"Certain populations, like China and some of the eastern Asian countries, have been heavily using grape seed extract for a variety of reasons – for cardiovascular health, cancer, arthritis, for many chronic inflammatory disorders," he said.
On the study: When we talk about any cancer, one of the challenges is that once a patient has been treated for the disease, what is the chance for that person to get the disease back? Chemotherapy and other cancer-fighting drugs are good at killing cancer cells, but they do not have the ability to kill cancer stem cells. And that recurrence occurs with cancer stem cells because they’re left behind, and once the drug is gone, they come back and multiply very fast and the disease comes back.
In this study, we showed that grape seed extract not only kills colon cancer cells, but it also targets cancer stem cells. Now, if you can target cancer stem cells, you have a lower likelihood for disease recurrence and a better likelihood that you’ll be disease free, or you can slow down the progression of disease.
The conventional drugs we use are highly expensive, very toxic and have side effects compared to something as natural as grape seeds, which we all eat on regular basis in different parts of the world. Eating grapes with seeds is probably the more natural way of consuming some of the health benefits. But if you can’t do that, just take a simple capsule of grape seed extract.
On the particular extract studied: VX1 grape seed extract from France is highly enriched for small sizes of flavonoids, which allows them to enter our cells and fight inflammation and free radicals. It's a potent cancer preventative. It's already in the health food store. It's not something in the evaluation stage.
Warning for consumers: The natural supplement industry in the United States is not heavily regulated. You can buy the same product from 10 different companies, 10 different vendors, 10 different types of extract. It is the responsibility of the consumer to ensure that when they use these supplements to look for the best supplement out there. If you’re considering grape seed extract for any health benefits, read the label and look for the extract that has higher absorption rather than an extract that's not enriched or purified. Also, discuss with your doctor before taking anything.
Interview responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.