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Which Fruit is Best at Fighting Cancer?

Recently, researchers compared the ability of eleven common fruits to suppress cancer cell growth in vitro. Which do you think was most effective—apples, bananas, cranberries, grapefruits, grapes, lemons, oranges, peaches, pears, pineapples, or strawberries?

There are many ways to compare the healthfulness of different foods. For example, if you were interested in antioxidants you might compare vitamin C content. If you compared vitamin C content between two most popular fruits, apples and bananas, then bananas would appear twice as healthy (10 mg in a banana compared to only 5mg in an apple). But vitamin C is just one of thousands of different phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables. It turns out the vitamin C in apples accounts for less than 1 percent of an apple’s total antioxidant activity.

In the video above I show a graph of the total antioxidant content of a red delicious apple. The amount contributed to the vitamin C is so tiny you can hardly see it. Even though there are only about 5mg of vitamin C in a small apple, it has the antioxidant equivalent of 1500 mg of vitamin C! I’ve reviewed before how taking that much vitamin C straight in a supplement may actually have a pro-oxidant effect and cause DNA damage (in my video Are Vitamin C Pills Good For You?), but you can get three times that antioxidant power eating an apple, without the adverse effects.

Of course there’s more than just vitamin C in bananas too. I was surprised to see a study out of Harvard suggesting that bananas were a significant source of anthocyanins, the red/blue/violet phytonutrients found in berries. Maybe I underestimated bananas? They are after all, technically berries.

Anthocyanins have been found in blue, purple, orange-red, red-purple, and pink-purple wild bananas, but none in domesticated yellow. In the Harvard researchers’ defense, they just took values from the USDA, and it turns out USDA apparently made a mistake. There are no anthocyanins in store-bought bananas, and despite twice the vitamin C, bananas are beat out by apples in terms of overall antioxidant power. But that’s just measuring the ability of these fruits to quench an oxidation reaction in a test tube. It would be nice to measure actual biological activity.

In the red delicious apple study, researchers also measured the ability of apple extracts, from both peeled and unpeeled apples, to suppress the growth of human cancer cells growing in a petri dish compared to control. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to compare that kind of superpower between different fruits? Well, now we can!

In the above video I show a graph of cancer cell proliferation versus increasing concentrations of the 11 most common fruits eaten in the United States. If you drip water on these cancer cells as a control, nothing happens. They start out powering away at 100 percent growth and they keep powering away at 100 percent growth. And pineapples, pears, and oranges don’t do much better.

Peaches start pulling away from the pack. At high peach concentrations, cancer cell proliferation drops about 10 percent, but bananas and grapefruits appear to work four times better, dropping cancer growth rates by about 40 percent. Red grapes, strawberries and apples do even better, cutting cancer cell growth up to half at only half the dose, but the two fruits that won, causing a dramatic drop in cancer proliferation at just tiny doses, were lemons and cranberries. So if you look at the effective dose required to suppress liver cancer cell proliferation, apples are more powerful than bananas, but cranberries win the day. And there was no effective dose listed for orange, pear, and pineapple since they didn’t appear to affect the cancer cell growth at all.

This study reminded me of my #1 Anticancer Vegetable video (along with its “prequel,” Veggies vs. Cancer).

Other videos in which I rank various foods include:

How can you consume cranberries palatably, though? Check out my recipe for Pink Juice with Green Foam and my video Cranberries versus Cancer.

More berried treasure in Strawberries versus Esophageal Cancer and Black Raspberries versus Oral Cancer.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my full 2012-2013 year-in-review presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

Related:
Best Dried Fruit For Cholesterol
The Science on Acai Berries
Apple Peels Turn On Anticancer Genes

Read more: Health, Cancer, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, General Health, Videos, , ,

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at NutritionFacts.org.

100 comments

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8:25AM PST on Feb 4, 2014

Love it.

1:08PM PST on Jan 25, 2014

good info

6:03PM PST on Jan 24, 2014

Hip hooray for cranberries!

11:46AM PST on Jan 24, 2014

Thanks

1:01AM PST on Jan 23, 2014

A cranberry a day !

10:34AM PST on Dec 21, 2013

Thx.

9:51AM PST on Nov 28, 2013

Love lemons and cranberries. Thank you for this.

7:14PM PDT on Sep 5, 2013

My eye doctor told me to eat an apple every day, although find it arduous to eat any one thing every day.

2:49AM PDT on Jul 30, 2013

Thank you :)

5:19PM PDT on Jul 24, 2013

Interesting. Thank you.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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