Friday, 24 January 2014

Top Nutraceuticals for Cancer Management

Today's post is written by Dr Nina Bailey, Head of Clinical Nutrition at Igennus Healthcare Nutrition. Igennus Healthcare Nutrition focus on providing natural means of improving health based on scientific research.

This post looks at the top Nutraceuticals for Cancer Management.

A high rate of cell proliferation (cell division) and a low rate of apoptosis (programmed cell death) are the hallmark of the abnormal cell growth attributed to cancer. In addition, inflammation in the tumour microenvironment is now recognised as one of the hallmarks of cancer. The anti-proliferative effects of several naturally occurring substances which offer anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to induce programmed cell death suggest that some key supplements may have a significant impact on halting disease progression.

Eicosapentaenoic acid

The health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids may be well documented, but EPA, in its highly purified ethyl-ester form, has demonstrated potent anti-cancer activities in human cancer studies including cancers of the breast, prostate and colorectum where it is now entering phase III human trials.  EPA is anti-inflammatory, reduces proliferation, and increases apoptosis of genetically altered cells.  EPA has also been shown to slow the progression of cachexia, a wasting syndrome associated with cancer progression, making it the ideal cancer ‘add-on’ agent, with excellent safety, tolerability and patient acceptability. 

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D deficiency is common in the UK and supplementing with D3 (the active form) has many potential benefits for cancer patients, especially those undergoing chemotherapy, as certain chemotherapeutic regimens have been shown to further reduce vitamin D levels.  Vitamin D benefits (in addition to a role in bone metabolism) include anti-proliferative and anti-inflammatory effects and regulation of immune system function, thereby providing resistance to infection. 

Garlic supplements

Garlic has been used for centuries as a therapeutic medicinal agent, with garlic-derived organosulfur compounds receiving increasing attention during the last few years.   The specific activity of these compounds as potential anti-cancer agents focuses on the regulation of cell-cycle arrest and the induction of apoptosis, as well as their enhancing effects on the immune system.


Carotenoids are natural fat-soluble pigments that provide bright colouration to plants and animals.  Dietary intake of carotenoids is inversely associated with the risk of a variety of cancers in different tissues. Well-known examples of carotenoids that can be found in supplement form are lycopene (from tomatoes), lutein (green leafy vegetables) and astaxanthin (from krill), all of which have been proven to have anti-carcinogenic activity in several tissues, possibly due to their highly potent anti-oxidant activities.  Carotenoids also act at the molecular level, influencing several genes known to play a role in the regulation of normal cell cycle control.

Green tea polyphenols

Dietary polyphenols such as green tea extract have been the subject of extensive studies for the last decade because of their anti-cancer and chemo-preventive potential, targeting several cancer-causing genes/pathways.   Although several green tea polyphenols possess anti-carcinogenic activity, the most active is epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) which is the major constituent in the polyphenol fraction. 


It is well established that angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels) is critical to tumour progression.  Resveratrol, a polyphenol found predominantly in red grapes (and therefore red wine!) has a broad-spectrum of well-documented health benefits. The ability of resveratrol to inhibit carcinogenesis by slowing tumour invasion and metastasis is believed to be directly through the inhibition of angiogenesis.


Capsaicin, like the class of polyphenols, is a potent phytochemical found in red peppers and chillies.  Capsaicin exerts anti-cancer effects by modulating cell cycle progression and inducing apoptosis.

For more information, please check out the Igennus website

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