"Recently, articles have appeared about major pharmacies and stores selling, 'adulterated,' supplements that are nothing more than junk and ground up houseplants."
Ellagic acid is a, 'phytochemical,' or plant chemical that is found in strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, pecans, walnuts, pomegranates and other plant foods. Research in laboratory animals and cell cultures has discovered that ellagic acid might slow the rate of growth of some tumors caused by certain carcinogens. Even though this is promising, there remains no reliable evidence at this time from human clinical studies showing that ellagic acid has the ability to either prevent or treat forms of cancer. Additional research is required in order to determine what benefits it may have.
Ellagic acid does appear to have some anti-cancer properties.
It may act as an anti-oxidant and has been discovered to cause cell death in cancer cells in the laboratory. In additional laboratory studies, ellagic acid seems to reduce the effect of estrogen in the promotion of growth in breast cancer cells in tissue cultures. There are also reports that it might assist a person's liver to break down or remove some cancer-causing substances from a person's blood.
Some supporters have made claims that these results mean ellagic acid has the ability to prevent or treat cancer in people, something that has not yet been proven. A number of substances that show promise against cancer in animal studies and in the laboratory are not found to be useful in human beings. Ellagic acid has also been said to reduce birth defects, heart disease, liver issues and to promote the healing of physical wounds.
The highest levels of ellagic acid can be found in strawberries, pomegranates and raspberries, particularly when they are freeze-dried. Extracts from pomegranates, red raspberries or their leaves or seeds, or other sources are said to contain high levels of ellagic acid and are available as dietary supplements in powder, capsule, or liquid form. The best dose of these supplements remains unknown.
Ellagic acid was studied in the 1960's, mainly for its effects on blood clotting. Early published research on ellagic acid and cancer first appeared in the 1970's-1980's. Publication of a number of small laboratory studies in the 1990's found ellagic acid being promoted on the Internet and other places as a means to prevent and treat forms of cancer.
Evidence for Ellagic Acid
Nearly every study conducted on ellagic acid has been done in cell cultures or laboratory animals. Several animal studies have found that ellagic acid may inhibit the growth of tumors of a person's esophagus, skin and lungs, as well as additional tumors caused by carcinogens. Additional studies have also found positive effects. A study in cell cultures found that ellagic acid might act against substances that help tumors to form new blood vessels. Additional research is needed to determine whether results such as these apply to people.
In a unique study reported in relation to people, Italian researchers discovered that ellagic acid appears to reduce the side-effects of chemotherapy in men with advanced prostate cancer, although it failed to slow progression of the disease or improve the chances of survival of the men involved. The researchers have cautioned people that more research would be needed to confirm the results.
The interaction between phytochemicals like ellagic acid and the other compounds in foods people consume remains something that is not well understood. It is unlikely that any one compound offers people the best protection against cancer. A balanced diet that includes:
Is more likely to be effective in reducing a person's cancer risk that consuming one particular food such as raspberries in copious amounts. Some studies; however, suggest that foods high in ellagic acid may be useful add-ons to a balanced diet. A randomized clinical study; for example, of men with prostate cancer reported that pomegranate juice slowed the increase in blood levels of prostate-specific antigen - a substance that is regularly measured to estimate the growth of prostate cancer.
Potential Issues or Complications
Ellagic acid is sold as a dietary supplement in America. Unlike drugs, which have to be tested prior to being allowed to be sold, the companies that make supplements are not required to prove to the Food and Drug Administration that their supplements are either safe or effective - as long as they do not claim the supplements can treat, prevent, or cure any specific disease. Recently, articles have appeared about major pharmacies and stores selling, 'adulterated,' supplements that are nothing more than junk and ground up houseplants.
Some supplements might not contain the amount of ellagic acid or other substance that is written on the very label. Others may include other substances or contaminants. Actual amounts per dose may differ between brands, or even between different batches of the very same brand. The majority of supplements have not been tested in order to find out if they interact with things such as:
While some reports of interactions and harmful effects may be published, full studies of interactions and effects are often times not available. Due to these limitations, any information on ill effects and interactions must be considered to be incomplete. Eating berries or other natural sources of ellagic acid is usually considered to be safe. The foods should be a part of a balanced diet that includes several servings of vegetables and fruits every day.
Some reports indicate ellagic acid, as a supplement, might affect certain enzymes in a person's liver - something that could alter the way in which some medications are absorbed. For this very reason, people who take medications or other dietary supplements should consult their doctor or pharmacist about each of their medications and any supplements they take prior to taking ellagic acid. The raspberry leaf or preparations made from it should be used with caution, especially during pregnancy, because it might induce labor. Relying on ellagic acid alone, or avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer, may have serious health consequences for people.
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