The Ohio State's Food Innovation Canter (FIC), Center for Advanced Functional Foods Research and Entrepreneurship (CAFFRE) and Comprehensive Cancer Center at James Cancer Hospital are on a mission to develop functional foods that may help fight cancer. The key ingredient in these foods are known as phytochemicals which are biologically active compounds found in plants. In plants, phytochemicals are used to fight plant diseases. According to researchers at Ohio State, phytochemicals may also be used to help fight human diseases. Some of the phytochemicals that have reportedly been shown to reduce the risk of cancer include carotenoids, indoles, glucosinolates, isoflavenoids and polyphenols. However; according to Dr. Stephen Schwartz, CAFFRE director and FIC associate director, "There are so many biologically active compounds that are yet unstudied and untapped".
Some of the foods that have been created to help reduce the risk of cancer include a tomato-soy juice, a berry based confection, and a soy based bread. Some of the products target specific types of cancer, such as tomato-soy juice, which targets prostate cancer. The juice is made from a specific variety of tomatoes that contain high amounts of lycopene, which has been scientifically linked to help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. The juice contains only the protein-less part of the soybean known as the soy germ which contains only isoflavones. Using the soy germ also helped to make the tomato juice less viscous and more palatable.
Black raspberry confection was developed to target oral cancers related to tobacco smoking. The phytochemicals in black raspberries have been shown to alter genes that are mutated by tobacco smoke to genes that are more similar to those of non-smokers.
Clinical trials involving some of these functional foods are currently in progress. Much more research needs to be performed before scientists can create public health guidelines as well as dietary guidelines in regards to consumption of functional foods. Scientists advise making some of these functional foods as part of your regular diet as a preventative for cancer as well as other chronic diseases.
I am a postdoctoral researcher with interests in pre-harvest microbial food safety, nonthermal food processing technologies, zoonotic pathogens, and plant-microbe interactions. My current research projects involve the optimization of novel food processing technologies to reduce the number of foodborne pathogens on fresh produce. I am a food geek!