A new weapon against cancer

A basic ingredient in jam and jelly could help prevent the spread of cancer, scientists have found.

Pectin, a natural fibre found in fruit and vegetables, is widely used as a gelling agent in processed foods.

Research has shown that under the right conditions it releases a molecular fragment with anti-cancer properties.

Professor Vic Morris, who led the study at the Institute of Food Research, said the modified pectin used in jellies and jams was likely to have the same effect.

But he said people would be better off eating fruit and vegetables. “The treatments used by the food industry to modify pectin would emphasise the release of the fragment we’ve identified,” he said. “I expect you would get some protection from jam but it’s full of sugar.”

A US study published in the journal ‘Glycobiology’ last year showed pectin can slow the growth of prostate cancer.

Scientists at the University of Georgia found that when prostate cancer cells were exposed to pectin, up to 40 per cent died. Studies on rats suggest pectin also fights lung and colon cancers. An estimated 35,000 tonnes of pectin is produced worldwide each year. It is used as a processing ingredient in confectionery, bakery fillings, yoghurts and milk drinks.

The latest research is published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology journal.

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