Effects of Purple Potatoes on Colon Cancer

Killing and limiting the spread of colon cancer cells may be possible through the compounds found in purple potatoes, according to recent findings published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

Killing and limiting the spread of colon cancer cells may be possible through the compounds found in purple potatoes, according to recent findings published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

Researchers from Penn State tested the starchy compounds found in purple potatoes in two laboratory studies and mice models in order to investigate the effects. The researchers utilized baked purple potatoes, partly because they understood that the potatoes are commonly baked before consumption (especially in western countries), and also because they wanted to ensure the vegetable maintained its anti cancer properties even after being baked.

“You might want to compare cancer stem cells to roots of the weeds,” study author Jairam K. P. Vanamala explained in a press release. “You may cut the weed, but as long as the roots are still there, the weeds will keep growing back and, likewise, if the cancer stem cells are still present, the cancer can still grow and spread.”

First, the lab study effectively demonstrated the potatoes’ ability to suppress the spread of cancer stem cells and promote their apoptosis. The second study proved the impact on whole baked purple potatoes on colon cancer in mice models, and, again, it was successful.

“Our earlier work and other research studies suggest that potatoes, including purple potatoes, contain resistant starch, which serves as a food for the gut bacteria, that the bacteria can covert to beneficial short chain fatty acids such as butyric acid,” Vanamala added. “The butyric acid regulates immune function in the gut, suppresses chronic inflammation and may also help to cause cancer cells to self destruct.”

The researchers believe there are several compounds in purple potatoes that can combine to mediate pathways to kill the colon stem cells, such as anthocyanins, chlorogenic acid, and resistant starch. The color compounds that offer the potatoes’ purple color, as well as other colors of other fruits and vegetables, may be effective in suppressing cancer growth.

“When you eat from the rainbow, instead of one compound, you have thousands of compounds, working on different pathways to suppress the growth of cancer stem cells,” continued Vanamala. “Because cancer is such a complex disease, a silver bullet approach is just not possible for most cancers.”

In the future, the authors want to test the purple potatoes in humans for disease prevention, including other cancers, and potentially to develop treatment strategies. Primary prevention would be aimed at stopping cancer onset, while secondary prevention includes aiding patients in remission to remain cancer free.