Studies indicate healthy eating may affect cancer development, improve digestive system

05/12/04

Research of eating behavior, herbal extracts, shows significant GI benefits

New Orleans, LA Making simple dietetic changes, such as incorporating green tea and fruits, may have a large impact on gastrointestinal health, according to new research presented today at Digestive Disease Week in New Orleans. Digestive Disease Week (DDW) is the largest international gathering of physicians, researchers and academics in the fields of gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery.

"Particularly for children, healthy eating patterns are important for proper GI function and development," said Lee Kaplan, M.D., Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital. "Incorporating a healthy diet into a sound lifestyle can help prevent some of the most common GI-related conditions today."

Mechanism of Cell Growth Inhibition by Green Tea Extract in Barrett's Associated Esophageal Adenocarcinoma (Abstract 103982*)

Previous studies have found that the major polyphenol in green tea extracts, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), has chemopreventive effects on cancers affecting a number of organs in the digestive tract. In this study, researchers at the Harvard Medical School and VA Boston Healthcare System investigated the effects of EGCG on human esophageal cancer cells associated with Barrett's esophagus.

The team found that EGCG inhibits the growth and reproduction of Barrett's esophagus-associated human esophageal adenocarcinoma (cancer) cells (SEG-1 and BIC-1). They concluded that exposure to EGCG induces apoptosis (programmed cell death) and results in increased levels of the proteins caspase-3 and cleaved poly-ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP).

In the study, the adenocarcinoma cells were treated with different concentrations of EGCG and monitored for cell growth, method of cell death and changes in apoptotic protein levels. Treatment of cells with EGCG inhibited cell growth and caused signs of early apoptosis at 24 hours. Further studies found that EGCG significantly increased levels of active caspase-3 and cleaved PARP proteins.

"Research suggests that drinking green tea may be both a valuable chemopreventive therapy as well as a treatment for esophageal adenocarcinoma," said Howard Chang, M.D., an investigator of the study. "Our results suggest that extracts in green tea may help to lower the prevalence of esophageal adenocarcinoma, one of the fastest growing cancers in western countries."

Effect of Eating and Nutrients on Recurrent Abdominal Pain in Children: A Population-Based Study (Abstract 103866*)

Recurrent abdominal pain (RAP) is a common condition in children and adolescents that is poorly characterized and often misdiagnosed. Researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine examined RAP in children to identify its clinical appearance and found that while it is common among school children, healthy eating habits appear to play a protective role against the condition.

A total of 700 school children completed a questionnaire that ranked RAP into three scales: pain intensity, non-pain symptoms and satisfaction. The overall prevalence of RAP was about one-quarter, with no differences with regard to ethnicity. Based on a pain intensity scale, 60 percent of children reported moderate to severe pain and 45 percent had pain for more than 30 minutes. Children who ate daily in fast-food restaurants had more frequent episodes of pain than those who ate fast food only once per week. Eating fresh fruits played a protective role against RAP, even for those children who ate two or fewer servings of fruits per week.

"Our study found that abdominal pain is common among school children and can cause interruptions in school activities and lifestyles," said Hoda Malaty, M.D., lead investigator of the study. "But consistent with physician recommendations, we found that healthy eating habits appear to protect the GI tract from these symptoms."

With their parents, school children completed a standardized questionnaire concerning socioeconomic parameters and abdominal pain intensity, frequency, duration, nature of RAP and possible relationships with school activities, eating patterns and other upper gastrointestinal symptoms. Children were identified as having RAP if they met the widely-accepted Apley's Criteria: (1) at least three attacks of pain; (2) pain severe enough to affect activities; (3) attacks occurring over a period of 3 months; and (4) no known organic cause.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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