UF Researchers Say Munch More Mangoes To Fight Cancer

Ed Hunter (352) 392-1773 x 278

Susan Percival ssp@gnv.ifas.ufl.edu, (352) 392-1991
Stephen Talcott sttalcott@gnv.ifas.ufl.edu, (352) 392-1991

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new University of Florida study indicates mangoes can be added to the arsenal of foods known to help fight cancer.

In fact, the study shows, someone looking for cancer-fighting ability might be better off picking up a few mangoes at the grocery store instead of apples or a bunch of bananas, said Susan Percival, a UF nutrition and immunity specialist.

“We think mangoes have some unique antioxidants as well as quantities of antioxidants that might not be found in other fruits and vegetables,” said Percival, an associate professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences who conducted the study.

Antioxidants inhibit cancer formation by protecting cells against damage from free radicals — oxygen atoms that have lost an electron and have become unstable, Percival said. When a cell is damaged, it can become cancerous, she said.

Percival said in her study, puréed mangoes were divided into two portions. One part contained known antioxidants such as the yellow carotenoids that include beta carotene. The other portion contained components that easily dissolved in water, similar to water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C.

She said mouse cells commonly used in cancer tests were exposed to a known carcinogen and then were treated with either the carotenoid-rich mango portion or with the fraction containing the water-soluble compounds.

“Adding the carotenoid portion of the mango to the cell cultures resulted in fewer cancerous cells,” Percival said. “When we added the water-soluble portion, we found that even fewer cells developed cancer compared to the carotenoid fraction.

“Both of the portions inhibit cancer formation. However, it seems that the water-soluble fraction is a more potent or more efficient inhibitor,” she said.

The researchers said the water-soluble portion of the mango puree contains phenolic compounds — the class of compounds to which most known antioxidants belong. But they said more research would need to be done to identify the specific compounds that provide the increased cancer protection.

“The goal is to isolate and characterize these compounds and maybe even look for them in other fruits and vegetables besides the mango,” said Stephen Talcott, a UF assistant professor of food science and human nutrition who also worked on the study. “Then a breeding program might be able to incorporate these compounds into other fruits or vegetables, or increase the levels of these new antioxidants if they are already found to be present.”

Percival said members of the public concerned about cancer should remember the UF study is the first of several research projects that will examine the cancer-fighting abilities of mangoes.

“We can’t say these compounds from mangoes are going to prevent cancer in humans because those studies haven’t been done,” Percival said. “But what we can say about the mango is that it contains potent antioxidants, and it would be a good part of a healthy diet.

“Every American has heard the message that five servings of fruits and vegetables a day are important to one’s health,” she said. “This is some more evidence that a particular fruit has cancer-fighting capabilities.”

Talcott said he hopes the results of the research will help cue the public into the importance of a balanced diet.

“The mango is a tropical fruit that is not widely distributed in U.S. markets,” he said. “Finding an association between antioxidant constituents in mangoes and their ability to prevent cancer is an important step for persuading the American public to consume more fruits and vegetables.”

The study’s results were presented at the July meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists, an organization representing industry, educational institutions and government agencies involved with food science, Percival said. The study was funded by a $12,000 grant from Mango Health Benefits Corp., a Jupiter, Fla.-based company that is engaged in the development of dietary supplements.



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Posted: February 2, 2001

Category: UF/IFAS

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