Ginger and chili peppers could combine to cut cancer risk: China research

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Ginger and capsaicin could combine to reduce cancer risk. ©iStock
Ginger and capsaicin could combine to reduce cancer risk. ©iStock

Related tags Cancer

New research from China suggests the pungent compound in ginger, 6-ginergol, could counteract capsaicin's potentially harmful effects. 

Both chili peppers and ginger are widely used spices in Asian cuisines and have been widely studied for potential health effects.

As previous research has pointed out​, the role of capsaicin in carcinogenic processes is quite controversial. Although some investigators suspect that capsaicin is a carcinogen, co-carcinogen, or tumour promoter, others have reported that it has chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic effects.

Ginger, however, has repeatedly shown promise as a health-promoting ingredient.

Interestingly, both capsaicin and 6-gingerol both bind to the same cellular receptor -  one that is related to tumor growth. Therefore, Jiahuan Li, Gangjun Du and colleagues at Henan’s Pharmacy College wanted to further investigate this potential contradiction.

Over several weeks, the researchers fed mice prone to lung cancer either capsaicin or 6-gingerol alone, or a combination of both.

During the study period, all of the mice that received only capsaicin developed lung carcinomas while only half of the mice fed 6-gingerol did.

Combined approach

Surprisingly, an even lower percentage, 20%, of the mice given both compounds developed cancer.

“We showed that lung carcinoma incidence and multiplicity were 70% in the control versus 100% in the capsaicin group,” ​states the study.

“The combination of 6-gingerol and capsaicin reversed the cancer-promoting effect of capsaicin (carcinoma incidence of 100% versus 20%).”

The researchers, whose study has been published in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry​, also dug into the potential molecular underpinnings of how the compounds interact to lead to this effect.

They concluded: “This study provides valuable information for the long-term consumption of chili-pepper-rich diets to decrease the risk of cancer development.”

Source: Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry

2016, 64​ (31), pp 6203–6211. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.6b02480

“Gingerol Reverses the Cancer-Promoting Effect of Capsaicin by Increased TRPV1 Level in a Urethane-Induced Lung Carcinogenic Model”

Authors: Jiahuan Li and Gangin Du, et al.

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