A study has discovered that human colon cancer cells keel over when exposed to compounds that are available in just one cup of yerba mate tea. The tea is popular in South America and has long been hailed for its medicinal properties.
"Try a cup of yerba mate tea."
This is the almost magical sounding finding was seen in a study carried out at the University of Illinois, and led by Elvira de Mejia, an associate professor of food chemistry and food toxicology.
"The caffeine derivatives in mate tea not only induced death in human colon cancer cells, they also reduced important markers of inflammation," de Mejia said.
Inflammation contributes to and can trigger cancer development, she explained.
For the study, de Mejia and former graduate student, Sirima Puangpraphant, treated human colon cancer cells with caffeoylquinic acid (CQA), a compound found in mate tea. As concentrations of CQA were increased, the cancer cells dropped dead. Blam!
"Put simply, the cancer cell self-destructs because its DNA has been damaged," de Mejia said.
Being able to induce cell death, the lay term for apoptosis, could be tremendously important and useful in treating all kinds of cancer.
The thought here is that the caffeine derivative in mate tea may have anti-cancer properties that could also work in other diseases characterized by inflammation.
"We believe there's ample evidence to support drinking mate tea for its bioactive benefits, especially if you have reason to be concerned about colon cancer," de Mejia concluded.
Her team is currently testing yerba tea in mouse models.
Meanwhile, this study was published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research in 2011
This research was funded by the University of Illinois Research Board and researcher, Puangpraphant's Royal Thai Government Scholarship.