Vitamin A has been known for its benefits for eye health and maintaining endurance. However, not only that, recent research shows that vitamin A can also fight colon cancer. A study conducted at Stanford University showed that retinoic acid, a compound produced by the body from vitamin A can fight colon cancer in mice and humans.
Sources and benefits of vitamin A
Vitamin A is an antioxidant that can fight inflammation and cell damage caused by free radicals. This vitamin has many benefits such as improving the body's defense system, slowing down the cell aging process, maintaining healthy eyesight, bone growth, maintaining healthy skin, and maintaining nerve cell function.
The best source of vitamin A is from food. There are two forms of vitamin A that can be found in food. First, retinoids, compounds that can be found in animal products such as red meat, liver, milk, cheese and butter. Second, carotenoids, compounds that can be found in vegetables and fruits such as carrots, papaya, mangoes, jackfruit, oranges, and green vegetables.
The role of vitamin A in preventing cancer
Since long ago, many studies have led to the benefits of vitamin A in preventing or slowing down the cancer process. A study in 1926 showed that rats fed a low vitamin A diet had gastric cancer. In 1941, a study involving humans with the same disease showed that they had low vitamin A levels. Other research shows, when vitamin A is combined with vitamin C, both can prevent the development of breast cancer cells three times more effective than cells that are not treated at all. Research also shows that vitamin A works better when combined with other vitamins or minerals such as vitamin D, K2, zinc, and magnesium.
The role of vitamin A in fighting colon (colon) cancer
The human intestine is always bombarded by various foreign organisms, therefore, the immune system in the human intestine is very complex. Intestinal inflammatory diseases such as ulcerative colitis have a clear association with the rate of colorectal cancer. For years, retinoic acid has been known to have the effect of suppressing inflammation in the intestine. Therefore, Prof. Edgar Engleman and his team from Stanford University tried to learn how retinoic acid derived from vitamin A can affect the development of colon cancer.
A theory says that humans with colon cancer have stem cells that contain mutated cancer cells. Cancer cells in patients who have undergone chemotherapy may die, but stem cells in these patients can survive and emerge later and cause recurrence. Research found that in the intestine there is a protein known as HOXA5. This protein can inhibit an increase in the number of stem cells that contain cancer. However, the adaptability of cancer stem cells can make these cells transmit biological signals that are useful for inhibiting HOXA5. Thus, the stem cells can freely replicate and invade.
Fortunately, research has found a compound that can reactivate HOXA5. This compound is known as retinoic acid. By reactivating HOXA5, cancer stem cells can be eliminated and the spread of cancer cells to other places can be prevented.
But not only that, when Prof. Engleman and his team examined mice with colon cancer, they found that in the intestines of the mice there were lower levels of retinoic acid than they should. They also found that increasing levels of retinoic acid in the intestines of mice can slow the course of colon cancer suffered by these mice. In humans, a similar process occurs. Research found that bacteria or molecules produced from bacteria can interfere with the metabolic process of retinoic acid in the human intestine.
"Now that we've succeeded in showing a relationship between the low levels of retinoic acid and colon cancer, we want to quickly find specific organisms that cause these changes in humans. Thus, we can determine whether our findings can be useful for preventing or treating colorectal cancer, "said Prof. Engleman concluded.
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