Over the past two decades, extensive research has suggested that the phytochemicals present in spices may lower the risk of various chronic illnesses, including cancers.
Chili peppers and ginger are widely used spices worldwide for their spicy and strong flavors. The spices have been studied for their potential health effects. Some research suggest that capsaicin in chili peppers might cause cancer and the predominant pungent compound in fresh ginger, 6-gingerol is an agonist to carcinogenic cells and could counteract the potentially harmful effects of capsaicin. Ginger is also a traditional medicinal herb used widely in China, Japan, and India. 6-gingerol has gained much attention in light of its many health benefits including potential cancer prevention and has never been reported to be carcinogenic.
In combination, the study suggests, 6-gingerol could lower the risk of cancer because both capsaicin and 6-gingerol, bind to the same cellular receptor — the one that is related to tumor growth, which can potentially control tumor progression.
Over a several week period, researchers fed mice prone to cancer either 6-gingerol or capsaicin alone, or a combination of both. During the period of the study, all mice that received only capsaicin developed carcinomas while only half of the mice fed 6-gingerol developed lung carcinomas. Of the mice that were given both compounds, only 20 percent developed cancer.
Long-term capsaicin treatments of more than 90 days and high doses have been shown as toxic and potentially carcinogenic, whereas small doses of capsaicin led to no or few deleterious effects in rodents.
Ginger is used as a spice and food additive and its pungent compound, 6-Gingerol offer many pharmacological effects including cancer-preventive activities.
Dietary components can positively or negatively affect cancer progression and associated risk factors.
The full study is published in the ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.