Potato may have cancer-fighting properties

More than just a meal time accompaniment?

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 14:31 04/12/2013
Dr Esther Chong
FAIRFAX NZ
EUREKA!: The urenika potato variety, the long, purple potato, among others could have cancer-fighting properties.

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A Massey University researcher has discovered that the urenika potato may have cancer-fighting properties

The humble spud is shaping up to be more than just a meal time accompaniment, according to new research.

Food technology researcher Esther Swee Lan Chong has looked at the super food tendencies of the potato for her doctoral thesis and discovered it may help in the battle against cancer.

Extracts in the purple potato variety, urenika, as well as plain white potatoes can suppress the growth of breast cancer cells in the lab , Dr Chong said.

She found spud extracts contain phytochemicals, a plant-sourced compound, and at certain concentration levels can be linked with bioactive exerts effective against cancer.

Dr Chong did a series of in-vitro experiments combining the extracts with model breast cancer cells, MCF-7, and found cell growth was hindered.

She also carried out experiments combing the extracts with a type of breast cancer medication called tamoxifen and found the stimulatory effects disappeared and cell growth was again hindered.

This shows that potato extracts have the potential to be used as part of a combined treatment for breast cancer, warranting future research, Dr Chong said.

''Potatoes appear as a very important, staple food in New Zealand,'' she said.

''They've got lots of anti-oxidant and special compounds, and I wanted to look at a variety that had meaning to New Zealand as well.

''The potato is consistent, reproducible and significant, hopefully the news gets out [about their potential] and someone says they want to investigate this more, because there is a lot can be done to explore the possibilities [in medicine].''

The next step is seeing where the research could be applied in modern medicine and attracting companies interested in pursuing potatoes use, she said.

''Breast cancer is huge, it's one of the most common strands of cancer in the world, including New Zealand, and we can be looking at what more can be done.''

Massey's professor of postharvest technology Julian Heyes said although Dr Chong's research is based on laboratory studies, it is a reminder of the benefits of including fruit and vegetables in our diet.

''Understanding how fruit and vegetables benefit our health, and how their 'health value' varies during storage and cooking, is vitally important for New Zealand as a global food supplier of safe, high value products.''

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- Manawatu Standard

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