New York: A pill containing olive oil and herbs could protect men from developing prostate cancer, according to scientists at Columbia University in the US.
The results of a trial, published in the medical journal Nutrition And Cancer, appear to confirm he herbal mixture has powerful anti-cancer properties. It was found that the supplement reduced the rate at which cancer cells grow and spread in the prostate by about 80 per cent.
Called Zyflamend, the supplement is based on olive oil and ten different herbs. It is already widely used as an alternative to prescription drugs in conditions such as arthritis. This is because it appears to reduce inflammation that causes painful, swollen joints.
Available through health food suppliers and costing around £25 for 60 capsules, Zyflamend attracted the attention of researchers at Columbia University after tests showed it stopped cancer cells multiplying.
But after testing the pill on almost 50 men, the team admitted they had not expected it to have such a potent effect.
‘These results were particularly surprising and show greater promise in the fight against prostate cancer,’ said Dr Debra Bemis, who led the study.
‘We hope the benefits shown will be confirmed in a larger scale trial already in progress.’
The disease is on the increase and although genetics are known to be a factor, studies show vegetarians are half as likely to get it as meat-eaters.
Treatments include surgery to remove the prostate, radiotherapy to kill cancer cells or hormone therapy, where testosterone levels in the body are reduced in order to starve the tumour.
In the search for ways to prevent the disease, most research has concentrated on lycopene — a substance found in tomatoes and shown to halt tumour growth.
But last year, the Columbia University team set up the first clinical trial to investigate the effects of Zyflamend.
The supplement includes concentrated extracts from a range of common herbs and spices, such as turmeric, ginger, rosemary and oregano. Other ingredients include green tea extracts, a type of basil found only in India and herbs from Japan and China.
Several ingredients have been found to block the effects of an enzyme called cyclooxygenase-2, or COX-2. This is responsible for triggering inflammation throughout the body in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.
Some experts believe it is also implicated in the development of certain cancers.
The U.S. researchers studied the herbal pill’s effects by looking at what impact it had on a condition called prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia, or PIN.
This is where the top layers of cells of the prostate start to divide more rapidly than usual.
It’s a pre-cancerous state that greatly increases the chances of a man going on to develop a tumour. A man with PIN has a 50 to 70 per cent chance of getting cancer.
Tests showed that the supplement dramatically slowed the rate at which pre-cancerous cells grew.
Dr Bemis said: ‘Zyflamend has shown an ability to reduce cancer cell proliferation by as much as 78 per cent, and to induce cancer cell death. These results are exceptionally promising.’