Saponins Inhibit Cancer Cells
Saponins Fight Cancer in Three Distinct Ways
- Cancer cells have a different membrane structure, with a more cholesterol-like compounds. As saponins bind cholesterol, they likewise have a natural affinity to bind cancer cell membranes preventing them from entering the body through the intestinal tract where they have the ability to attach themselves to vital organs and grow.
- Saponins bind bile acids. Some bacteria in the large intestine turn primary bile into a substance that is highly carcinogenic (that is why a high fat diet increases the risk of colon cancer). By binding these primary bile acids, saponins stop this toxic material from forming in the body.
- Saponins flush pathogens through the digestive system without allowing them to be absorbed into the body (see Strengthening The Immune System). This process relieves a tremendous amount of work off the immune system. With less stress, your body can more effectively identify and destroy cancer cells.
Published Research Reports
One of the most exciting prospects for saponins are how they appear to inhibit or kill cancer cells. They may also be able to do it without killing normal cells in the process as is the mode of present cancer-fighting drugs. Cancer cells have more cholesterol-type compounds in their membrances than normal cells. Saponins can bind cholesterol and thus interfere with cell growth and division. While drugs have side effects, many of them serious, saponins are safe.
Scientist are looking at how they can help humans fight fungal infections, combat microbes and viruses, boost the effectiveness of certain vaccine and knock out some kinds of tumor cells paeticulary lung and blood cancers. They can also lower blood cholesterol thereby reducing heart disease. Their natural tendency to ward off microbes may prove to be especially useful for treating those difficult to control fungal and yeast infections.
Mary Clarke, Ph D
Department of Human Nutrition
Kansas State University
Looking at the antitumor activities of specific saponins, Yutaka Sashida, a chemist at the Tokyo University of Pharmancy and Life Science in Japan, reports that agents from plants in the Liliaceae family, test well in fighting cancer. These saponins are 10 to 100 times more potent than some clinically approved anticancer agents, including adriamycin and taxol.
The binding of bile acids by saponins has other important implications. Bile acids excreted in the bile are called primary bile acids. They are metabolized by bacteria in the colon, producing secondary bile acids. Some of the secondary bile acids are promoters of colon cancer. By binding to primary bile acids, saponins reduce formation of the secondary bile acids.
Saponins enhance the effectiveness of oral vaccines by improving their absorption as a result of increasing gut mucosal permeability, which facilitates absorption of large molecules contained in vaccines.
Peter R. Cheeke, Ph D
Professor of Comparative Nutrition
Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University
Dr. Rao and his colleagues believe the saponins may even help prevent colon cancer. Normally, bile acid pours into the stomach to help absorb fats from foods. Some bacteria in the large intestine turn the bile into a substantive that is highly carcinogenic. That's why a high-fat diet increases the risk of colon cancer. Research suggests that when saponins travel through, they stop the toxic material from forming.
READERS DIGEST, August, 1996,
Jennifer Reid Holman
Saponins and saponin-like compounds have shown evidence that they can buttress the body's ability to thwart cancer and heart disease.
We are more interested in the impact of saponins in the diet than in their use as pharmaceuticals. We want to focus our energies on disease prevention. At the cellular level, we find that saponins inhibit the growth and viability of cancer cells. In animal studies, mice placed on saponin-enriched diets, then exposed to colon cancer carcinogens, show fewer incidence of cancerous and precancerous tumors than the controls do. We think that some of these agents may select cancer cells. Cancer cells have a different membranes structure, with more cholesterol-like compounds. Since saponins bind cholesterol, they have a natural affinity for cancer cell membranes.
Dr. Venket Rao, chemist, University of Toronto, Ontario