Many Brits enjoy eating bananas as part of a healthy breakfast, or for a boost of energy during a busy day – but did you know the popular fruit can help to prevent cancer?
Bananas are famed for their high potassium content, but many people are unaware that eating a slightly green banana every day can reduce the risk of cancer in those with a family history of the disease.
Scientists at Newcastle and Leeds Universities examined around 1,000 people with Lynch syndrome – a genetic condition that increases the risk of certain cancers, including ovary, bowel, stomach, womb and pancreatic.
Published in Cancer Prevention Research, the findings highlighted that a daily dose of resistant starch supplement – the equivalent of one green banana – over a two year period reduces some cancers by up to two thirds.
Starch, which can be found in oats, cereal, beans and slightly green bananas, did not affect cancers in the bowel but did reduce it in other parts of the body by more than half.
Professor John Mathers of Newcastle University, said: “We found resistant starch reduces a range of cancers by over 60 per cent.
“The effect was most obvious in the upper part of the gut.”
According to the research, the supplement was particularly effective in gastric, biliary tract, pancreatic, oesophageal, and duodenum cancers.
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Professor Mathers explained: “This is important as cancers of the upper GI tract are difficult to diagnose and often are not caught early on.”
The remarkable effect was seen to last for 10 years after stopping taking the supplement and experts hope the resistant starch findings were beneficial to the general population, not just people with Lynch syndrome.
Previous research published as part of the same long-term trial also revealed that aspirin reduced the risk of cancer of the large bowel by 50 percent.
Professor Sir John Burn, from Newcastle University and Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust who ran the trial with Professor Mathers, said: “When we started the studies over 20 years ago, we thought that people with a genetic predisposition to colon cancer could help us to test whether we could reduce the risk of cancer with either aspirin or resistant starch.
“Patients with Lynch syndrome are high risk as they are more likely to develop cancers so finding that aspirin can reduce the risk of large bowel cancers and resistant starch other cancers by half is vitally important.
“Based on our trial, NICE now recommend aspirin for people at high genetic risk of cancer, the benefits are clear – aspirin and resistant starch work.”