Most of us know that fruit is good for us, and most of us even know that various berries contain certain compounds that are extra healthy, but could berries really help fight cancer?
Speak to any “health-nut” and they will say definitely, berries are the way to go for everything health-wise but it is not that clear-cut as to whether berries are as beneficial in combating cancer as one might think.
While nobody can dispute the fact that berries are extremely healthy, when it comes to cancer studies, some laboratory animal studies have offered hope, while observational studies in humans have not been so encouraging.
Let’s face it, a lovely colourful bowl full of berries is very pleasing to the eye, and to the palate too, and this is partially due to their pigments, or anthocyanins, which are particularly prevalent in blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and blackcurrants.

Anthocyanins are a type of flavonoid, and their antioxidant capabilities have intrigued researchers for years, leading to many laboratory trials and tests as opposed to testing in animals, which has led to some debate about whether anthocyanins are easily absorbed in the body.
Hence, there is little known about how anthocyanins may interact with and influence molecular pathways in the body, which is why a team of researchers led by Dr. Minna Rahnasto-Rilla, from the School of Pharmacy at the University of Eastern Finland teamed up with the National Institute on Aging in the United States
The study looked specifically at anthocyanins’ effects on an enzyme implicated in cancer and aging: sirtuin 6 (SIRT6). Sirtuins regulate the expression of genes involved in a number of cellular signaling pathways. As we age, sirtuin — like much of the rest of us — stops working as well, which can contribute to a variety of ills.
Of this family of enzymes, SIRT6 is lesser known, but it is thought to be important in the metabolism of glucose. It has garnered a fair amount of interest from pharmacologists, as the authors explain:
Because SIRT6 has been implicated in longevity, metabolism, DNA-repair, and inflammatory response reduction, it is an interesting target in inflammatory and metabolic diseases as well as in cancer.”
The study, which was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that:
One type of anthocyanin, known as cyanidin, could be of particular interest.
Because SIRT6 has been implicated in longevity, metabolism, DNA-repair, and inflammatory response reduction, it is an interesting target in inflammatory and metabolic diseases as well as in cancer.
Found in wild bilberry, raspberry, and cranberry, cyanidin was shown to increase production of SIRT6 in cells by an impressive 55-fold. Similarly, it increased expression of the enzyme in colorectal cancer cells.
Interestingly, cyanidin decreased expression of the cancer genes Twist1 and GLUT1, and it also increased expression of the FOXO3 gene, which is a tumour suppressor.
In other words, this compound appeared to reduce the activity of cancer-causing genes and boost the activity of cancer-stopping genes.
As mentioned previously, there is some debate around whether any anthocyanins we consume survive our alimentary canal and enter our cells, but regardless of this, the findings are useful.
The more we understand about how chemicals interact with cancer cells and the pathways that they use to survive, the better equipped we will be to fight the disease. Drugs that regulate the SIRT6 pathway may, one day, be useful in the battle against cancer.
So, to answer the question, “Can Berries Help Fight Cancer?“, the answer at this stage is that eating berries each day may or may not help fight cancer – but they certainly look and taste delicious and are definitely healthy, so enjoy!
 

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