Falcarinol, a compound in Carrots - Could Reduce Cancer Risk
Scientists have given us another reason to eat carrots
A compound found in the popular root vegetable has been found to have an effect on the development of cancer.
Falcarinol is a natural pesticide and fatty alcohol found in carrots, red ginseng, Panax ginseng and ivy. It protects roots from fungal diseases, such as liquorice rot that causes black spots on the roots during storage. Falcarinol is a polyyne with two carbon carbon triple bonds and two double bonds. Falcarinol can cause allergic and irritant contact dermatitis. Carrots are the major dietary source of the polyacetylene falcarinol. Falcarinol from ginseng has been indicated as a possible anti-cancer compound. Falcarinol is a natural pesticide with strong biological activity, however pure falcarinol is toxic
It has been shown that falcarinol acts as a covalent cannabinoid receptor type 1 inverse agonist and blocks the effect of anandamide in keratinocytes, leading to pro-allergic effects in human skin. Preliminary research in animal models suggest that falcarinol may have a protective effect against certain types of cancer. Laboratory rats fed a diet containing raw carrots or isolated falcarinol were a third less likely to develop full-scale tumors induced by azoxymethane than those in a control group.
Normal consumption of carrots doesn't causes any toxic effect in humans. However, when the carotatoxin is delivered in high doses to laboratory animals, it causes neurotoxical problems
When you boil vegetables, they leach their colour together with their minerals, vitamins and potential nutritional value. The darker and more vibrant the vegetable the more obvious this is. Today nutritionists are observing that uncut vegetables such as carrots are more nutritious than boiled carrot slices, because the nutritional value is locked into the whole vegetable.
A study by the British Newcastle University Schools of Agriculture, Food and rural development found that boiling whole carrots increased the amount of carrots anti cancer properties in the form of a polyacetylene compound called falcarinol by 25 per cent.
A team of researchers, from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in England and Denmark, found the natural pesticide falcarinol reduced the risk of cancer developing in rats by one third.
Although experts have recommended that people eat carrots for their anti-cancer properties, it has not been known exactly what component of the vegetable has this effect.
This research confirmed that polyacetylene may have more anti cancer properties than beta carotene. Falcarinol is a phytochemical that protects carrots from different types of fungal diseases. It is a non nutrients element that have powerful effects in deterring major illnesses.
While carrots lose vitamins and minerals in the cooking process, they have increased levels of phytochemicals. The heat kills the cells in the carrot during cooking so they lose the ability to retain the water inside them and this increases the concentration of falcarinol in the carrot. When the cell walls break down the vitamin C and sugars are lost because they are water soluble.
The study results, published today in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, are significant as they could contribute to healthy eating advice for consumers and recommendations for growers and may eventually aid the development of anti-cancer drugs.
Falcarinol protects carrots from fungal diseases, such as liquorice rot that causes black spots on the roots during storage. The scientists investigated the compound after a previous published study suggested it could prevent the development of cancer.
The research team carried out tests on 24 rats with pre-cancerous tumours in laboratory conditions. They divided them into three groups and fed them different diets.
The team found that, after 18 weeks, rats who ate carrots (the popular orange variety) along with their ordinary feed and the group which consumed falcarinol with their feed - in a quantity equal to that contained in the carrots - were one third less likely to develop full-scale tumours than the rats in the control group.
Dr Kirsten Brandt, (above right) a senior lecturer with Newcastle University's School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, carried out the research with the University of Southern Denmark and the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences. She said: "We already know that carrots are good for us and can reduce the risk of cancer but until now we have not known which element of the vegetable has these special properties.
"Our research allows us to make a more qualitative assessment of the vegetables we are eating, rather than quantitative. We now need to take it a step further by finding out how much falcarinol is needed to prevent the development of cancer and if certain types of carrot are better than others, as there are many varieties in existence, of different shapes, colours and sizes.
"We could also expand our research to include other vegetables. For consumers, it may soon no longer be a case of advising them to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day but to eat particular types of these in certain quantities. The research could also lead to more tailored advice for growers regarding the methods they should use when growing vegetables."
The experiment was conducted using raw carrots so researchers do not yet know if eating boiled carrots or drinking carrot juice, for example, would have the same effect.
Dr Brandt, who says she eats "more carrots than most" and grows her own organic varieties, recommended that consumers should eat one small carrot every day, together with other vegetables and fruits, to benefit from their health-giving properties.
Falcarinol is toxic in large amounts but to obtain a lethal dose you would have to eat 400 kilograms of carrots at once. Researchers suspect it is effective because it stimulates mechanisms in the body that fight cancer, although they have yet to carry out a detailed analysis in this respect.
Important Note - The chemical constituents of carrot are not there by chance, but perform a function. Many constituents of the orange carrot we now cultivate are also in the white root of the wild carrot, Queen Anne's lace, from which our carrot was developed. This is true of falcarinol, falcarindiol, and myristicin. Carotene (present in small amounts in Queen Anne's lace) has been increased by centuries of selection. Volatile oils have been decreased in this process. Plant scientists must continue to monitor all known constituents nutritive and non-nutritive - as new cultivars of the carrot are developed to keep our vegetables nutritious and safe. Plant breeding for the sake of high yields, appearance, and keeping quality will not be sufficient.
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