Do Miracle Foods Exist?

One can go crazy reading about the many so-called “Miracle Foods” on the Internet. Often these foods are beneficial to health, but there is no concrete evidence of a cancer curing power.  Though individual food items cannot be considered curative, diet and lifestyle together can help prevent cancer.  The high concentration of antioxidants and other properties of plant-based foods make them valuable, natural, nutritional tools to help fight cancer.  The American Institute of Cancer Research discourages the use of dietary supplements as a form of cancer prevention.  Rather, it is recommended to strive for a plant-based diet that has a variety of vegetable, fruits, whole-grains, and legumes rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients. 

Here is a review of three popular “miracle” fruits that we often get asked about:

 Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are among the world’s most ancient “miracle” foods. The Aztecs cultivated them and it is believed they have been used since 3500 BC. The seeds themselves come in two different varieties: black and white.  It is unknown if there is any nutritional difference between the two varieties.  Chia seeds are very rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can aid in the reduction of inflammation within the body, and therefore can reduce inflammatory health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.   Chia seeds are also rich in soluble fiber, which helps to slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream.  Soluble fiber is a better fiber for gastrointestinal irritation, which can be helpful in curbing nutritional side effects of some cancer treatments like diarrhea and constipation.  Chia seeds also contain high amounts of antioxidants, which neutralize the circulating and damaging effects of free radicals within the body.  

Acai Berries
Acai berries are the fruits of a palm tree native to Central and South America. These berries are rich in a variety of phytochemicals called anthocyans, proanthocyanidins, and flavonoids. Many studies have been conducted, both in vitro and in vivo, that have shown the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and apoptotic effects of acai berries. Foods with more antioxidant capacity are thought to be better scavengers of free radicals and have greater potential to stop cell damage.  Although the acai berry has a higher antioxidant content than many other fruits, it is has not been proven to be more cancer protective than any other fruit and studies have not connected the acai berry to a cancer cure.

 Noni Fruits
Noni is a traditional food and medicine in many tropical areas. Ancient Hawaiians used noni fruits for both internal and topical applications. Noni juice is rich in phytochemicals, similar to the acai berry and also contains anthraquinones, giving the juice strong antioxidant properties.  Studies have been conducted on individual components of the noni plant in animals and humans with promising results but larger studies need to be conducted.  There is not enough evidence to conclude that noni fruit and its juice is protective against cancer.  In fact, the FDA has issued multiple warnings to noni manufactures that are using unsupported health claims.

  

References:

1. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Inflammation-and-Heart-Disease_UCM_432150_Article.jsp
2. Rakoff-Nahoum S. “Why Cancer and Inflammation”. Yale J Biol Med. 2006;79(3-4): 123-130.
3. http://www.webmd.com/diet/acai-berries-and-acai-berry-juice-what-are-the-health-benefits
4. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-758-noni.aspx?activeIngredientId=758&activeIngredientName=noni
5. http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/dietandnutrition/noni-plant
6. http://preventcancer.aicr.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=21680&news_iv_ctrl=0&abbr=pr_hf_

 

1 Comment
  1. I’ve never been a very big fan of the term “miracle food”. As you said, there are so many different articles touting these “miracle foods” that it is enough to make your head spin a little. That being said, I do think there are several super foods out there. One of my personal favorites would have to be garlic. This herb has been touted for its many health benefits and it can even fight off the undead! In all seriousness, I wrote an article last year that covered a recent study on the benefits of including raw garlic in your regular diet. The results showed that this could lower a person’s risk of developing lung cancer– I’d say that is pretty super!

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