Vitamin C may help prevent stomach cancer

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By David Liu, PHD

Friday Dec 30, 2011 (foodconsumer.org) -- High doses of vitamin C or ascorbic acid may help prevent infection of Helicobacter pylori - the bacteria largely responsible for stomach cancer or gastric cancer, according to a new study in the Nov 2011 issue of Indian Journal of Pharmacology.

J. Pal and colleagues of Dana Farber Cancer Institute in the U.S. reviewed several clinical studies and found that high prevalence of H. pylori is correlated with low vitamin c concentrations in the blood and gastric juice.

H. pylori is strongly associated with gastric adenocarcinoma or stomach cancer, according to  P. Correa and M.B. Piazuelo of  Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville who published a report on the issue in the June 2011 issue of U.S. Gastroenterology & Hepatology Review.

The authors of the current study further reviewed the existing literature and found high levels of vitamin C in gastric juice may inactivate H. pylori urease - which otherwise helps the bacteria to survive in the acidic stomach.

They suggested that high concentrations of vitamin C may not cure the infection, but prevent infection or reinfection of H. pylori.  They recommended that people infected with the bacteria undergo the conventional treatment and then start a vitamin C supplementation  to prevent re-reinfection of the bacteria.

"The standard first-line therapy is a one week 'triple therapy' consisting of proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole, lansoprazole and the antibiotics clarithromycin and amoxicillin," wikipedia states.

H. pylori infects about half of the world's population.  Higher prevalence of the infection is found in developing countries.   More than 80 percent of people infected with the bacteria are asymptomatic.

The bacteria release cancer-causing chemicals in the stomach when a person eats salty foods.  Eating preserved fish, which contains high salt, has been associated with increased risk for stomach or gastric cancer.

The current study suggests that taking vitamin C supplements or eating vitamin C rich fruit and vegetables may help prevent stomach cancer.  In fact, Ha YM and colleagues of Gyeongsang National University in Jinju, Republic of Korea  reported in May 2009 in Cancer Letter that high concentrations of vitamin C induces apoptosis of human gastric cancer cell culture suggesting that the vitamin may help fight gastric cancer.

Foods high in vitamin C include red and gren hot chili peppers, guavas, bell peppers, French herbs (thyme and parsley), dark leafy greens (kale, mustard greens, garden cress), broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, kiwi fruits (Chinese gooseberries), papayas, oranges and clementines or tangerines, and strawberries.

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