Sunday, 12 February 2017

The Vitamin Discovery that May Help Prevent Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most dreaded forms of the disease thanks to its aggressive nature and the difficulty involved in treating it successfully. But, new research into the role of vitamin A and the pancreas is shedding light on the serious disease and may offer hope to those suffering from it.
The pancreas is a long thin organ that sits just below the lower left ribcage. It’s involved in digestion and secreting enzymes that aid in the breakdown of foods. It is also involved in the secretion of insulin—a hormone involved in regulating blood sugar levels and the storage of fat in the body.
In a study published by Imperial College London and published in the medical journal Nature Communications, researchers decided to focus on nearby pancreatic cells rather than the cancer tumor itself, with the hope that doing so might shed some light on why cancer of the pancreas is so difficult to treat. They found that in a healthy pancreas, cells known as stellate cells store abundant supplies of vitamin A; however, when a person suffers from pancreatic cancer these cells are activated by the cancer tumor to release their vitamin A content, thereby depleting their stores of this critical nutrient. When this happens it appears that the stellate cells form a thick connective tissue that surrounds the cancer tumor. The cancer hijacks the function of these cells to spread cancer to other tissues in the body. 
The researchers also discovered that it was possible to turn off this dysfunctional system. In healthy individuals vitamin A is converted into a substance known as All-Trans-Retinoic-Acid (ATRA). When the researchers induced this process in a laboratory, they found that the dysfunctional process involving stellate cells was reduced, creating a process where it was more difficult for cancer tumors to spread.
While it is not clear whether increasing vitamin A in the diet or supplementing with the nutrient might assist in fighting pancreatic cancer, new research in the journal Science Reports found that vitamin A, beta carotene and lycopene in the diet might assist in fighting pancreatic cancer. Beta Carotene and lycopene are part of a group of nutrients known as carotenoids that convert into vitamin A inside the body.
Beta carotene is found in most orange and green fruits and vegetables, including: squash, pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, kale, spinach and broccoli. Lycopene is found in reddish-colored foods like tomatoes and watermelon. Both nutrients have been linked with the reduction of cancer in many other studies.
In addition to maintaining a healthy pancreas, vitamin A is also involved in the maintenance of healthy eyes and vision, night vision, as well as healthy bones, nerves and skin.
People who have difficulty digesting fats, have impaired pancreatic functioning, are gluten intolerant, diabetic or who have a leaky gut may be more vulnerable to vitamin A deficiency and may have difficulty converting carotenoids into vitamin A. Alcoholics are particularly at risk for a vitamin A deficiency.
The recommended daily allowance of vitamin A is 900 micrograms per day for men and 700 micrograms per day for women. Because vitamin A is fat soluble, it can be stored in the body. It is, therefore, important not to take excessive amounts of the vitamin in supplement form over long periods of time as it can build up in the body.

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