Ever since I learned how to eat a mango – courtesy of Hercule Poirot demonstrating how to take the skin off with a dessert spoon – I have loved their flavour with both sweet and savoury foods. They make a wonderful smoothie and add sweetness to a lamb tagine but now it seems their rich blend of vitamins A and C could help prevent some types of cancer, but are particularly effective for colon cancer.
Food scientists Dr. Susanne and Steve Talcott undertook a study at Texas A&M University on five varieties of mangos that are most common in the USA. Kent, Francine, Ataulfo, Tommy/Atkins and Haden, in case you are interested, and they specifically tested polyphenol extracts from the fruit on colon, breast, lung, leukaemia and prostate cancer cells.
Polyphenols are natural substances in plants that are antioxidants with the potential to protect the body from disease and this research focused on polyphenolic compounds in mangos known as gallotannins, a class of natural bioactive compounds believed to help prevent or block the growth of cancer cells.
The results are encouraging as the mango extract demonstrated some cancer fighting ability when tested on lung, leukaemia and prostate cancer cells, but really were impressive when tested on the most common breast and colon cancers where they were found to cause cancer cells to undergo apoptosis, or programmed cell death.
The researchers documented that the division process cancer cells go through was interrupted by mango extract. This is crucial information. For cells that may be on the verge of mutating or being damaged, mango polyphenolics could prevent this and so prevent cancer.
The scientists have conducted additional research on the colon cancer cell lines because mangos contain small molecules that are readily absorbed in the colon as well as larger molecules that are not absorbed and remain present longer in the colon. That could potentially make eating mangos a potent way to help prevent colon cancer.
Time to add mangos to one of your five a day?