A recent scientific study found that yerba mate tea induces death in human colon cancer cells. Scientists discovered that in vitro cancer cells died when exposed to the bioactive compounds present in one cup of the beverage long valued for its medicinal properties by South American traditional healers.
Caffeine compounds cause cell death
University of Illinois associate professor of food chemical and toxicology Elvira de Mejia stated "The caffeine derivatives in mate tea not only induced death in human colon cancer cells, they also reduced important markers of inflammation." Mejia observed that this is important since inflammation can lead to cancer progression. Her study was published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research in latter part of 2011.
In the in vitro study, de Mejia and former graduate student Sirima Puangpraphant first isolated, and purified, then treated human colon cancer cells with caffeoylquinic acid (CQA) derivatives from mate tea. As the scientists increased the CQA concentration, cancer cells died. "Put simply, the cancer cell self-destructs because its DNA has been damaged," de Mejia said.
Inducing apoptosis, or cell death, is one of the tactics medical researchers have been trying to create through pharmaceutical anti-cancer drugs. However research has also discovered that natural medicines also possess this capability. The new University of Illinois study now demonstrates that yerba mate is one of those substances with this cancer-fighting power.
Yerba mate stops inflammation
The study suggests that the mate tea compounds not only have potential as anti-cancer agents but may also be effective against other diseases associated with inflammation. However, since the colon and its microflora play a major role in the absorption and metabolism of caffeine-related compounds, the anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects of mate tea may be most potent against bowel cancer. "We believe there's ample evidence to support drinking mate tea for its bioactive benefits, especially if you have reason to be concerned about colon cancer," de Mejia noted.
The scientists will also soon publish the results of a further study on yerba mate and colon cancer. The new study compares the development of colon cancer in rats that drank only mate tea against a control group that drank only water.
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