Yerba mate brew bumps off colon cancer cells

Washington: A taste for Latin brew could be a potent and easy way of protecting oneself against the ravages of colon cancer.

These cancer cells, when exposed to bioactive compounds present in a cup of the yerba mate tea, self-destruct -- commit suicide or apoptosis, says a University of Illinois study.

"The caffeine derivatives in mate tea not only induced death in human colon cancer cells, they also reduced important markers of inflammation," said Elvira de Mejia, Illinois associate professor of food chemistry and food toxicology, who led the study.

That`s important because inflammation can trigger the steps of cancer progression, she said, the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research reports.

The brew is prepared by steeping dried leaves of yerba mate in hot water. It is popular in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, parts of Brazil and south of Chile, among others. They contain caffeine and related compounds, according to an Illinois statement.

In the lab study, de Mejia and former graduate student Sirima Puangpraphant isolated, purified, and then treated human colon cancer cells with caffeoylquinic acid (CQA) derivatives from mate tea.

As they increased the CQA concentration, cancer cells died as a result of apoptosis. "Put simply, the cancer cell self-destructs because its DNA has been damaged," said de Mejia.

The ability to induce apoptosis, or cell death, is a promising tactic for therapeutic interventions in all types of cancer, she said.

The results strongly suggest that the caffeine derivatives in mate tea have potential as anti-cancer agents and could also be helpful in other diseases tied with inflammation, she said.


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