A trial appears to have shown that resistant starch, a digestion-resistant molecule found in a range of everyday foods, has an astonishing ability to help prevent a range of hereditary cancers.
Published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, for almost 20 years the double-blind longitudinal study followed nearly 1,000 patients with Lynch Syndrome, an inherited genetic condition that increases the individual risk of several cancers.
Researchers at England's Universities of Newcastle and Leeds placed participants in two groups back in 1999. There was a short treatment period thereafter, which lasted until 2005. During the treatment period, each individual received a pill. One group took a placebo, while the other took a daily dose of resistant starch.
There was no notable difference in the individuals' health at the end of that short treatment period. But the study was designed for follow-up, and in extremely intriguing results, those who took the daily starch pill - which contained the approximate amount of the digestion-defying molecule that one would find in an average sized under-ripe banana - were far more likely to be cancer-free nearly 20 years later.
"We found that resistant starch reduces a range of cancers by over 60 percent. The effect was most obvious in the upper part of the gut," John Mathers, professor of Human Nutrition at Newcastle University, said in the press release. "This is important as cancers of the upper GI tract are difficult to diagnose and often are not caught early on."
The researchers believe that the secret to resistant starch's success is in its ability to, well, resist. It can be found, for example, in slightly under-ripe bananas, oats, peas beans, rice, and pasta.
Specifically, it resists acidic digestive bile. As a result, it actually settles and ferments in the large intestine. This feeds gut-supporting friendly bacteria, acting, as Mathers described "like dietary fiber in your digestive system."
But how does this defend against cancer?
The scientists believe that regular consumption of resistant starch - and thus, regularly keeping that good bacteria happy - might actually change the bacterial metabolism of the bile acids, ultimately keeping them from damaging DNA. (The scientists concede that this theory needs more research.)
But all in all, the results are promising. Perhaps a daily unripe banana - plus, of course, an apple - is the best way to keep the doctor away.
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