Rosemary May Have Anti-Cancer Properties

University Park, Pa.-- Ordinary rosemary -- the commonly used cooking spice -- appears to help prevent breast cancer in laboratory rats, according to a study in Penn State's College of Health and Human Development.

Rosemary interfered with cancer's initiation phase, or the transformation of normal cells to cancerous ones. The study, directed by John Milner, professor and head of the Department of Nutrition, is reported in the May issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

The results have "profound dietary implications," according to Milner. "We have found a spice that offers protection against a classic model of breast cancer," he says.

Rosemary significantly inhibited the binding of a known cancer-causing agent to the DNA in the rats' mammary cells. Scientists believe that that binding process is a necessary event in the formation of tumors.

The Penn State researchers fed the rats a diet supplemented with 1 percent rosemary for two weeks, using the same powdered rosemary readily available in grocery stores. They then treated the rats with DMBA, a chemical known to cause cancer. (DMBA has a structure similar to benzopyrenes, a class of carcinogens found in auto emissions and cigarette smoke.)

The rosemary diet reduced by 76 percent the number of instances of DMBA binding to the mammary cells, compared to rats fed a control diet.

In a separate experiment, the researchers fed rats a diet with half as much rosemary, then gave them half a dose of DMBA. The results were similar: DMBA's binding to mammary cells was reduced by 66 percent.

The researchers also found that rosemary's effectiveness against tumor formation increased with the amount of fat in the diet.

"It suggests that people who eat high-fat diets will actually get the most benefit from rosemary," Milner says. "For typical Americans, who eat more fat than they should, rosemary may be particularly important."

However, the typ

Contact: Tina Hay
Penn State

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