Regular reader of Love Live Health, are probably aware of the powers of lemon and baking soda for cooking, cleaning and deodorizing. Less well known is the potential of these ordinary ingredients to prevent or treat cancer. Research suggests that the antioxidant compounds in lemons and the acid-neutralizing properties of baking could play a vital role in future cancer therapies.
Limonoids are biologically active natural compounds found in the flesh, juice and seeds of lemons and other citrus fruit. They are what give citrus it’s tart, bitter flavor and may be responsible for some of the health benefits previously attributed to vitamin C. Evaluation of the biological activity of limonoids has indicated that they act as anticancer agents. A study published in Food Phytochemicals for Cancer Prevention investigated two limonoids, limonin and nomilin. Both compounds work to increase the activity of a detoxifying enzyme which can help to inhibit the growth of cancers. When fed to mice with chemically induced cancers, the limonoids reduced the incidence and numbers of stomach and lung tumors. Topical application to mice inhibited skin cancer. The researchers concluded that citrus limonoids may be useful as cancer preventive compounds.
A study published in Food & Function examined the effect of limonoids on breast cancer cells. Researchers extracted nine different limonoids from dried lemon seeds and tested them against estrogen receptor positive (ER+) and estrogen receptor negative (ER-) human breast cancer cells. Seven proved to be toxic against ER+ cells, while four showed toxicity against ER- cells (decreasing viability by as much as 44%). All but one of the limonoids was found to inhibit aromatase, an enzyme which provides ER+ cancer cells with the estrogen they need for growth. The most abundant limonoid in citrus juices, limonin glucoside, was one of the most potent for inducing cancer cell death.
Italian researchers analyzed data from a series of case studies comparing cancer patients to a control group. They found that people who consumed four or more 150 gram portions of citrus fruit per week decreased their risk of colorectal cancer by 18%, stomach cancer by 31%, oral and pharyngeal cancer by 53% and throat cancer by 58% compared to those who ate the least citrus fruit. The researchers concluded that citrus fruit has a protective role against cancers of the digestive and upper respiratory tract.
Sodium bicarbonate is a naturally occurring substance in the human body. It helps to regulate pH and prevent acid build-up. The stomach secretes about half a gram of sodium bicarbonate daily to counteract the effects of gastric acid. Bicarb also has a long history of medical use. For example, some babies who do not start breathing spontaneously at birth have an abnormal amount of acid in their blood. It is common practice to treat these newborns with an intravenous infusion of sodium bicarbonate.
In a study published in 2013, researchers monitored the pH of the area around tumors in mice and tracked the invasion of cancer into adjacent normal tissues. In every case, the tumor pH was acidic and the regions of highest tumor invasion corresponded to areas of lowest pH. Tumor invasion did not occur into regions with normal or near-normal pH surrounding the cells. Researchers concluded that tumors create an acidic environment that is nontoxic to the malignant cells, but promotes local invasion through its negative effects on normal cells and tissue.
A follow up study published in Cancer Research investigated whether reduction of tumor acidity would reduce the incidence of cancer cell invasion and metastases (the spread of cancer from a tumor to other parts of the body). Researchers fed sodium bicarbonate to mice with breast cancer. They found that the treatment reduced the acidity of tumors and inhibited spontaneous metastases. It also reduced the rate of lymph node involvement. Further tests on mice found that sodium bicarbonate inhibited the formation of metastases from prostate cancer cells.
Scientists are currently investigating the use of sodium bicarbonate as a cancer treatment for humans. The National Institutes of Health has awarded $2 million to Dr. Mark Pagel at the University of Arizona Cancer Center. The grant is being used to refine a magnetic resonance imaging method for measuring the acid content of tumors. The pH measurements will be performed on breast cancer patients to help doctors monitor the effectiveness of personalized baking soda therapy.
While there are no studies showing that drinking lemon juice and baking soda can prevent or treat cancer, many alternative health care practitioners recommend it as a complementary therapy. To make a tonic, squeeze half a lemon and mix the juice with eight ounces of water and half a teaspoon of baking soda. Drink four times a day.
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