Food preservatives are bad, right?
Scores of major food manufacturers have been dropping artificial ingredients, including some preservatives, over consumer concerns about their detrimental effects on our health. But what if one preservative could actually help kill cancer cells and antibiotic-resistant bacteria?
If it sounds counterintuitive, consider what a food preservative does: it's there, either naturally or artificially, to prevent the decay of a food by thwarting bacterial growth and other bugs that can rot a food. Granted, we want to eat food that rots fast—fresh is best for so many reasons. But we also need to preserve freshness for short periods of time, too—think refrigeration, or salt.
Fermentation is also another form of preservation, and nisin, a common strain of lactic acid bacteria found in cheese products, sauces and dressings, even beer, is used to protect against the deadly botulism bacterium, listeria, and other infectious bacteria. And it’s now being looked at as a potential cancer-fighting agent that may also be useful in treating antibiotic-resistant infections, says a new study.
The research comes out of the University of Michigan and is published in the recent issue of the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.
The researchers significantly increased the dosage of nisin to 800 milligrams per kilo for the rats used in the study (in foods it’s administered at .25 to 37.5 milligrams per kilo). At that dosage, the researchers noted, it “successfully killed 70 to 80 percent of head and neck cell tumors growing on the test subjects,” Munchies reports. The study authors explained that that dosage “would translate to a pill a little bigger than a third of an Advil per kilogram of body weight for people.”
While the study authors say it’s too soon to say nisin is a cure for cancer, the research is promising, especially since the bacterium has been around for thousands of years, “Mother Nature has done a lot of the research for us,” Dr. Yvonne Kapila, who helped lead the study, told Munchies.
But don’t go guzzling salad dressing, beer, or Velveeta to get your nisin fix anytime soon. Unless you want to speed on the cancer risk with the unhealthy additives in many of those products, that is.
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Beer and cheese image via Shutterstock