Many people may freak at the mention of eating apple seeds, cherry pits, or apricot seeds, as they contain cyanide. New research, however, suggests those seeds may be a cancer cure in waiting.
The apple is one of the world’s most common fruits and a portable and nutritious snack. Most people throw away the apple seeds, but some believe there are hidden nutritional benefits. The seeds contain a controversial compound called vitamin B17 that some researchers believe have many beneficial effects on the body.
Apples are a popular and healthy fruit that are a big part of American culture and history. Through resilient genetic diversity, apples are easy to cultivate and tailor to certain tastes. They are also healthy, with antioxidant properties that help protect against cancer-inducing oxidative damage that can lead to various health problems. The saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” has withstood the test of time because of the impressive health profile of apples.
But as you bite deep into an apple, reaching its core, you are confronted with something not so sweet: tiny black seeds. Unlike the sweet tang of the fruit, the tiny black seeds found in an apple’s core are another story. They contain amygdalin, a substance that releases cyanide when it comes into contact with human digestive enzymes, but acute toxicity is rare with accidental ingestion of seeds.
Here’s what we know:
Amygdalin has four molecules – two glucone, one cyanide, and one benzaldyhide. Here’s what happens: Cancer cells attract amygdalin compounds, as they want the glucose, but the other two molecules – cyanide and benzaldyhide – end up killing cancer cells.
So the cancer cells attract the amygdalin compounds for their glucose, but are whacked when they metabolize those compounds that free the benzalldyhide and cyanide. The glucose is the sugar bait. Cancer cells contain an enzyme that is not found in healthy cells, beta-glucosidase.
The beta-glucosidase enzyme “unlocks” the amygdalin compound, releasing the deadly toxins within the cancer cell. Only cancer cells metabolize amygdalin. Healthy normal cells don’t. Most non-cancerous cells contain another enzyme, rhodanese. Free cyanide molecules are bound to sulfur molecules by rhodanese, creating harmless cyanates that are eliminated in the urine.
While apples themselves are known to have many disease-fighting benefits, mounting evidence shows you shouldn’t remove the peel from the apple before consuming it or you could be discarding a part of the apple containing the greatest concentration of cancer-fighting antioxidants.
Studies have long shown an inverse relationship between consumption of apples and cancer. Research analyzing the positive effects of apple peels on prostate and breast cancer cells suggests that the cancer cells are able to turn off one of the body’s natural defense mechanism. The apple peel’s ability to turn back on the cancer-suppressing protein, known as maspin, is explained in this video (below) by Michael Greger, M.D.
The humble apple’s growing reputation as a nutritional powerhouse is well-deserved. Consuming just one apple – out of the nearly 7,500 varieties available – provides an estimated 10 percent or more of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C and fiber.
Plus, as we all know, dietary fiber (and vitamin C) has long been valued for its cancer-prevention properties and its role in healthy living. Fiber contributes to a feeling of fullness, decreasing the tendency to overeat and avoiding excessive weight gain associated with several types of cancer. And, of course, vitamin C is a critically important antioxidant to prevent free radical damage.
Apples are plump full of phytochemicals, powerful vitamins and nutrients, colon-pleasing fiber and a wealth of antioxidants. But the ability of apples to prevent cancer and contribute to overall health is closely related to the part of the apple that is consumed. Most consumers think of the tasty, fleshy part of the fruit when choosing to purchase apples as part of a healthy diet.
But enjoying apple juice or cider in place of the actual fruit, or even removing the peel and tossing it aside, means you could be missing out on many of the more critical benefits of apples. The fleshy part of the apple and the peel are thought to work together to ward off many of the most-often seen debilitating diseases and health conditions, such as heart disease, lung cancer, asthma, obesity, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, among others.
Are you eating the healthiest part of the apple to inhibit the growth of cancer cells?
By itself, the apple peel is known to contain triterpenoids. These compounds have significant anti-cancer capabilities, particularly when it comes to preventing liver, colon and breast cancer. Gut bacteria are also known to utilize pectin, a major component of the dietary fiber found in apples, to produce compounds that protect colon cells.
A growing number of studies over the years have shown that eating apples is linked to the body’s ability to lower the risk of particular types of cancers. Most recently, research has pointed to the abilities of apples to reduce the risk of lung cancer.
Here’s some good news: In the Nurses Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the regular consumption of fruit and vegetable was linked to a noteworthy 21 percent reduction in lung cancer risk in women. Upon further examination, it was found that apples alone stood out as having significant effect when consumed individually.
A recent Finnish study reveals similar results. A sample population of 10,000 men and women clearly showed a strong relationship between higher intake of flavonoids and lower growth of lung cancer. And, coming as no surprise, the primary source of flavonoids among research participants were apples.
It was concluded, therefore, that flavonoids from apples were most likely responsible for the lowered cancer risk.
Cornell University food scientists saw similar effects in a recent study on reduction of breast cancer. In this study, the researchers treated a group of lab rats with a known mammary cancer-causing agent. However, it was observed that after feeding the rodents apple extracts equivalent to human consumption of just one apple per day, the incidence of tumors decreased by 25 percent.
When fed the equivalent of three apples a day, researchers observed a reduction of 61 percent. Isn’t that amazing?!
Adding apples to a healthy diet is worth the effort.
Although you may find it impractical to eat three apples a day on a regular basis, it is possible to achieve some of the benefits of doing so through the use of nutritional supplements, such as quercetin and apple pectin. When you are able to incorporate more apples into your diet, keep in mind that, as with most foods, the less processing done to the apple, the greater the health advantages.