Nutrition

Citrus fruits: their secrets in the fight against cancer

One of the pleasures associated with the winter season is certainly the abundance of fresh citrus fruits that can be found on the market stalls. Good for us, because not only are citrus fruits an excellent source of vitamin C, but they also contain high amounts of cancer-fighting compounds that play important roles in preventing cancer.

Direct anti-cancer effects…

The most famous citrus fruits for us are orange, clementine, grapefruit and lemon. All these fruits have the characteristic

high levels of monoterpenes and flavanones, two classes of anticancer compounds that play a key role in the beneficial effects associated with regular citrus consumption.

In fact, of all the fruits studied so far, citrus fruits have one of the strongest anticancer activities. Numerous studies have shown that the consumption of these fruits reduces by half the risk of developing several types of cancers, in particular cancers of the digestive system (esophagus, mouth and stomach, for example).

This anti-cancer effect is probably related to the capacity of the anti-cancer molecules present in citrus fruits (monoterpenes and flavanones) to interfere in several processes essential to the development of tumours. Thus, monoterpenes block the activity of

important proteins in the growth of cancer cells, thereby reducing their potential to invade the tissues in which they are found.

As for flavanones, they have the property of preserving the structure of blood vessels, which prevents inflammation and deprives tumors of an important source of growth stimulators.

Bypassing our defense systems…

To protect itself from the possible negative effects of foreign substances, the human body has a complex system of enzymes – especially in the liver – which transform these substances in such a way as to accelerate their elimination.

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However, every good thing has a bad side: indeed, this elimination system does not discriminate between harmful substances and those having a positive impact, such as the anti-cancer compounds provided by our diet. As a result, these anti-cancer molecules are often eliminated from the body too quickly, which at the same time reduces their effectiveness.

A very important property of citrus fruits that makes their regular consumption so essential for the prevention of cancer is their ability to block some of these elimination systems and blood of other anti-cancer compounds present in our food.

For example, certain citrus fruits, and in particular grapefruit, contain molecules which strongly block these elimination systems (called cytochrome P450) and which can considerably influence the quantity of other molecules in the blood.

While this property can lead to side effects in the case of people who consume certain classes of drugs, the fact remains that under normal conditions, the reduction in the elimination of anti-cancer compounds from food can have very positive consequences for maximizing the anticancer potential of these molecules.

In summary, citrus fruits prevent the development of cancer in two ways: on the one hand, they contain molecules that act directly on cancer cells to prevent them from growing and, on the other hand, they also contain other compounds which, without having direct anticancer activity, nevertheless exert an indirect activity by increasing the activity of anticancer molecules present in other foods.

As we can see, drinking a glass of orange juice at breakfast is not only a good way to provide the body with vitamin C, but it is also a concrete way to protect against the development of several cancers.

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* Presse Santé strives to transmit medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace medical advice.

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