Cells turn into cancer for one reason — they don't die. Normally, cells live their life, replicate, and then they die before they cause any damage. Cancer occurs when the cells refuse to die off. So wouldn't it be great if we could help these cells die off before they become cancerous? Well, a new study out of Germany suggests the active component of peppers can do just that.
We've known for some time that capsaicin has powerful medicinal abilities. You can find it in many arthritis and anti-inflammatory treatments. But it seems researchers keep discovering what we can use it for. In this case, researchers found that capsaicin does something very unique with cancer cells. The hot spice doesn't actually attack the cancer and kill it.
Instead, capsaicin travels through your body looking for cancer cells. When it finds one, it attaches itself to the edge of the cell. From this position on the cell membrane, it switches on a cell receptor called TRPV1. This receptor acts as a channel that determines what goes in and out of the cells.
When the capsaicin turns on the TRPV1, it sends the cancer cell into overdrive where it starts to self-destruct. The more capsaicin in your body, the more cells it forces to self-destruct.
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The researchers found that “Capsaicin is capable of inducing apoptosis (cell death) and inhibiting cancer cell growth in many different types of cancer.” This includes osteosarcoma, colon, breast, and pancreatic cancer cells. Just as importantly, the capsaicin leaves normal cells unharmed
Unfortunately, the researchers showed their true colors in their report. Instead of focusing on the ability of capsaicin, they shifted the focus to drugs and said the capsaicin isn't effective if you eat, inhale, or inject it. The researchers think it will be effective only as a pill attached to another drug that targets cancer cells.
They obviously missed the results of other studies showing the drugs aren't necessary. In 2006, for instance, researchers found that the spice causes prostate cancer cells in mice to die. And the study didn't use drugs to enhance the capsaicin. They said that a 200-pound man can eat three to eight habanero peppers three times a week to see this effect. And another study in China in 2015 found that eating the spice lowers your risk of dying from cancer, heart, and respiratory diseases.
So don't wait for researchers to find a drug to carry capsaicin to cancer cells. Just eat plenty of it each week — or take a capsaicin supplement. It's better to use the spice as a preventive. But if you have cancer, consider adding more of it in your diet. It could be a valuable part of your cancer-fighting regimen.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening, ND