Scientists have discovered the secret behind the ability of spicy foods to kill cancer cells. Capsaicin, which is found in jalapeno peppers, attacks the mitochondria of cancerous cells.
Vanilloids, a family of molecules that includes capsaicin, bind to mitochondrial proteins in cancer cells to trigger apoptosis (programmed cell death), without causing harm to healthy cells. The biochemistry of cancer cell mitochondria is significantly different from that of normal cells.
To determine this, capsaicin was tested on cultures of human lung and pancreatic cancer cells.
The list of foods that exhibit medicinal properties is extensive. Certain foods, such as garlic, have a long and storied history of use for a variety of ailments. Even the tasty blueberry has turned out to be one of the healthier foods nature has to offer.
The capsaicin found in red chili peppers and other spicy foods is another well-known food component with healing properties. While its most common use has been as a component in topical creams for joint pain, it may also be capable of helping to lower insulin levels. But the good news has just kept on coming regarding the potential of capsaicin as a natural treatment for such severe illnesses as type 1 diabetes and cancer.
The lead researcher on this latest study is so sure of the benefits that he believes using capsaicin this way has uncovered, perhaps, a universal "Achilles heel" for all cancers.
And, considering capsaicin and other vanilloids are common in the average diet, researchers believe it may be possible that a diet richer in spicy foods could be prescribed one day for cancer patients or those at risk.
Just more evidence -- if you really needed any more of it -- that the foods you eat greatly influence your health.
On Vital Votes, Ray from Bloomington, Indiana adds: