Research has long been espousing the benefits of soy in fighting cancer. only recently, however, are we beginning to understand exactly why. Scientists have isolated a laundry list of soy constituents that suppress carcinogenesis including the Bowman-Birk inhibitor, beta sitosterol, and now, inositol hexaphosphate (IP6) or phytic acid.
Currently, there are a growing number of studies that support IP6's cancer-fighting properties. Additionally, IP6 has been shown to have potent antioxidant properties and to help treat kidney stones as well as high cholesterol and lipid levels. IP6 has no known toxic effects.
What Is It, and How Does It Work?
IP6, a ubiquitous substance found in virtually all mammals, is composed of the sugar inositol with six phosphate groups attached to it.
It is also an important component of cereals and legumes and may be the active ingredient in fiber that is anti-carcinogenic. the typical american diet is low in dietary fiber and relatively high in fat. It is not clear if the increased incidence of cancer is due to high fat intake, low fiber or both. Finland is one country in which the people tend to consume both a high-fat and high-fiber diet, and the risk of dying from breast cancer in Finnish women is lower than American women. Thus, it would seem that eating lots of fiber may be critical to preventing cancer.
What We Know Now
A study done by scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore examined whether a high-fiber diet reduced the amount of tumor cells in rats. Rats were divided into five groups and fed a diet that contained 0 percent, 5 percent, 10 percent or 20 percent Kelloggs' All-Bran cereal; a fifth group received 0.4 percent IP6 in their drinking water; an amount equal to 20 percent bran. After 29 weeks, they found that in the 5 to 20 percent bran cereal groups, rumor incidence decreased 11 to 17 percent. Oddly enough, the rats that ate the least amount of bran had a lower tumor incidence than the group that ate the most bran. So from this, researchers could at least conclude that there was not a dose-response inhibition of the high-bran diet. This means that we may not need to stuff ourselves full of bran cereal in the morning in order to get the health benefits.
IP6 has been shown in more than 25 studies to prevent the growth of tumors and shrink existing tumors.
But what if we drank the IP6? Rats that were given IP6 in their water had an even lower incidence of tumor formation. In fact, drinking IP6 seemed to work twice as well as eating the high-bran foods.
IP6 has been introduced by mouth, by injection directly into tumors, intramuscular injection, intraperitoneal injection, etc. And regardless of how IP6 was given, it consistently had the same effects, whether it was tested on a colon-cancer model, a breast-cancer model, smooth-muscle cells, skeletal muscle tumors, liver cancers, etc.
In addition to animal studies, there are several human studies that have shown that IP6 inhibits growth of human prostate cancer cells and adenocarcinoma. Scientists have observed that cancer cells can revert back to normal cells in the presence of IP6. It should be pointed out that most of the research has been done with animals; in order for IP6 to gain greater support by the medical community, more human trials are needed.
One Scientist's Discovery
Abulkalam Shamsuddin, M.D., of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is one of the leading authorities on IP6. He has an extensive scientific publication record on the topic of IP6. He reports his findings in his book IP6--Nature's Revolutionary Cancer Fighter (Kensington, 1998). According to Shamsuddin, the best evidence for the role of IP6 in fighting cancer is found in the comparison of cancer rates in Danish and Finnish populations. The fiber consumption of the Danes is nearly twice that of the Finns, yet the incidence of cancer in Danes is twice that of the Finns. This discovery suggests that the quality of fiber may be more important than the quantity of fiber consumed. Shamsuddin says, "The finns actually eat a lot of porridge, which is where you have a lot of IP6...You see the Danes eat a lot of fiber, and that fiber does not have IP6."
Where Can I Get IP6?
Most IP6 is derived from cereals. Corn apparently has the highest concentration of IP6 (~6 percent), followed by sesame (5 percent), wheat (2 to 3 percent) and rice (2 percent).
As of this printing, IP6 should now be available in pill or powder form. The advantage of taking a pill over food is that not all IP6 is absorbed from food. For instance, if you eat 100 gm of rice, not all of the 2 gm of IP6 present in that rice will be absorbed.
Although Shamsuddin admits that more research needs to be done before more specific dosage recommendations are give, he does provide the following guidelines. For prevention, a normal, healthy individual, should take 1 to 2 gm daily. Individuals with greater risk for cancer (due either to heredity predisposition or lifestyle factors), should take 4 gm daily as a preventative measure. If you want to make IP6 part of your treatment for cancer, take up to 8 gm daily (dose depends on stage of cancer).
Shamsuddin,A.M. et al. "IP6: A novel Anti-Cancer Agent," Life Sciences, 1997; 61: 343-54 Vucenik, I. et al., "Comparison of Pure Inositol Hexaphosphate and High-Bran Diet in the Prevention of DMBA-Induced Rat Mammary Carcinogenesis," Nutrition and Cancer, 1997; 28: 7-13
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