Inspirational and Inspiring Gifts

Scorched mouth, but healthy prostate

-- By Jennifer Harper
 - March 16, 2006

Gentlemen, eat your chili peppers. Habanero, jalapeno, Scotch bonnet --
those hot but tasty varieties of the capsicum frutescens have multiple
health benefits -- including the ability to drive prostate cancer cells to
kill themselves, researchers announced yesterday.
According to a team from the University of California at Los Angeles and
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the hot stuff in peppers -- capsaicin -- caused
80 percent of active prostate cancer cells growing in mice to "follow the
molecular pathways leading to apoptosis," or cell death.

The cancer cells literally committed suicide. What's more, the cancer
tumors of the mice treated with a hot pepper extract were one-fifth the size
of untreated mice.

"Capsaicin had a profound anti-proliferative effect on human prostate
cancer cells in culture," said Dr. Soren Lehmann. "It also dramatically
slowed the development of prostate tumors! formed by those human cell lines
grown in mouse models."

What does this mean in the kitchen? Tex-Mex or curry fans are in luck:
the hotter the pepper, the more the benefit. According to Dr. Lehmann, the
mice were fed a dose of pepper extract equivalent to what a normal man might
consume -- 400 milligrams of extract three times a week. That amount
translates to three to eight fresh habanero peppers.

Medically speaking, capsaicin inhibited the action of NF-kappa Beta, a
substance found in cells that causes them to grow out of control. Capsaicin
also regulates certain proteins that effect the growth of the cells.

"Increased concentrations of capsaicin caused more prostate cancer cells
to freeze in a non-proliferative state," according to the study.
American men develop prostate cancer more than any other type of
malignancy -- 232,000 new cases are diagnosed in t! he United States
annually; 30,000 men die of prostate cancer i! n the Un ited States each

Hot peppers have received accolades from researchers in recent years for
their antioxidant, or cancer-fighting, effects. Anti-inflammatory properties
in peppers have been tapped for treatment of migraines, arthritis and muscle
pain. Hot peppers also have been found to suppress appetites and clear a
stuffy head; they can aggravate existing heartburn but not cause it.
They are a good source of vitamins A, C and E, folic acid and potassium.
Peppers are low in calories and sodium and contain no carbohydrates. Their
taste has spawned numerous appreciation societies around the world, not to
mention global competitions to determine the hottest variety on the planet.
Still, the chili pepper came under fire in a 2002 Yale University report
that established a link between the hot pods and stomach cancer in Mexican
workers who ate from 9 to 25 jalapenos a day. The claim has been disputed
by other researchers who found that rates of stomach cancer declined in the
United States -- though consumption of salsa, chili and other hot foods
actually had increased.

chili peppers