The effects of diet on cancer remain largely understudied, but early research suggests graviola could slow the spread of the disease. Other research suggests it may enhance the performance of traditional therapies, or selectively kill several types of cancer cells. Doctors, however, have advised against its use in cancer prevention due to a lack of research on humans.
Graviola, also known as soursop, comes from the trees of rainforests in Africa, South America and Southeast Asia, where it is commonly consumed.
The fruit’s pulp is used widely in juices, and smoothies, but can be bought in its organic form from certain tropical fruit suppliers in the UK.
According to WebMD: “Soursop is high in vitamin C, and antioxidants known to boost immune health.”
Research shows it strengthens the immune system by improving the ability to defend against pathogens and promoting the destruction of free radicals.
Some studies have studied the effects of the fruit on cancer, suggesting it may help selectively kill malignant cells.
Writing in the Journal of Yoga, Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation, Constantino Mazzanobile, from the Department of Mental Health at the New York University, cited research showing that Graviola’s effects on cancer were not only compared with Adriamycin but surpassed it blatantly in laboratory studies.
The research, published in the Journal of Natural Products, suggested that two compounds extracted from the seeds demonstrated effects comparable to Adriamycin – a drug widely used in chemotherapy.
Mr Mazzanobile said: “A compound in the plant has selectively destroyed the cancerous cells of the colon with a power of 10,000 times higher than adriamycin.
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“Even researchers at Purdue University found that extracts of Graviola leaves have eliminated the cancer cells in at least six types of cancer and have been especially effective against cells of prostate cancer and pancreatitis.”
This holds significance in light of recent figures showing a sharp rise in the prevalence of prostate cancer in the UK, which now affects one in eight men.
Doctor Quinton Fivelman, Chief Scientific Officer at London Laboratory, said: “For the first time, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Britain, ahead of breast cancer and lung cancer.”
The soursop extract, however, appears to also work on cancer cells in the colon and breast, leaving healthy cells intact, which chemotherapy cannot do.
Other laboratory studies have shown that Graviola extracts can kill some types of liver cancer cells.
This was confirmed by one body of research published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2016, which highlighted the toxic effects soursop had on cancer cells.
The researchers wrote: “[…] Crude extract samples exhibited different levels of cytotoxicity toward breast cancer cell lines.”
They continued: “The results suggest that [the extract] is a promising candidate for cancer treatment, especially in breast cancer and deserves much further research as an alternative to conventional drugs […].”
Animal studies have also shown that the pulp extract has an effect on prostate cancer cells in mice, which are the cells most often found to be resistant to chemotherapy drugs.
It appears, however, that there is a lack of evidence to support the use of the fruit extract to treat or stave off cancer in humans. This means there is not enough information regarding the fruit’s efficacy and safety.
Side effects reported in connection to the fruit, however, have concerned scientists, with some research suggesting that chemicals in the fruit may cause nerve changes and movement disorders.
“The nerve changes may cause symptoms like Parkinson’s disease,” says Cancer Research UK.
Laboratory research has found that some substances in Graviola can cause nerve damage. It crosses into the brain from the bloodstream.”
With no evidence of the fruit’s safety and efficacy of the fruit in humans, experts advise against its consumption to prevent cancer.
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