Nutrition Frontiers - Fall 2017

Date Posted: 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Volume 8, Issue 4

Dear Colleague,

The fall issue of Nutrition Frontiers showcases the effect of green tea supplements on liver enzyme elevations, how the combination of cisplatin and sulforaphane may be useful in epidermal squamous cell carcinoma, and that silibinin, a naturally occurring flavonolignan from Milk thistle, may protect against UVB-induced skin carcinogenesis. Meet our spotlight investigator, Dr. Yael Vodovotz, and her research on using foods and food components to prevent cancer. Learn about hearts of palm, a delicacy, upcoming announcements and more.


You are invited to apply to the Transdisciplinary (TD) Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) Training Workshop. Funded by the NCI and led by Yale University’s Dr. Melinda Irwin with a Senior Advisory Board and expert faculty, this 5-day workshop builds capacity in TD energetics and cancer research and is designed for early career investigators. The course will be held June 17-22, 2018 at Water’s Edge Resort, Westbrook, CT. Costs will be covered. Notification of Intent to apply is due Jan 2, 2018.  Full applications are due Jan 15, 2018. For more detail and to apply, visit

Upcoming Events

November 8-10, 2017
Disrupting Cancer: The Role of Personalized Nutrition
American College of Nutrition’s 58th Annual Conference
Alexandria, VA

December 5-6, 2017
NIH Pathways to Prevention Workshop: Methods for Evaluating Natural Experiments in Obesity
Bethesda, MD

December 5, 2017
Nutrigenomics and the Future of Nutrition: A Workshop
Food Forum of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
Washington, DC


Effect of Green Tea Supplements on Liver Enzyme Elevation

Image of a tea pot and a cup of green tea.Pre-clinically, green tea extract (GTE) and green tea catechins, especially epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), have shown anti-tumorigenesis activities. Some epidemiologic studies suggest that drinking green tea may protect against several cancers, including liver cancer. However, hepatoxicity from EGCG in animals and liver injury from consumption of high doses of green tea have been reported in humans. In a subset of the Minnesota Green Tea Trial, Yu and colleagues examined the effects of a high, sustained oral dose of GTE on liver injury in 1,021 women with normal baseline levels of liver enzymes. Compared with the placebo group, women who received GTE capsules were approximately seven times more likely to develop mild or more severe liver enzyme elevation, including increased alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase. ALT returned to normal after a dechallenge and increased again after one or more rechallenge with GTE, implicating the effect of high-dose GTE on liver enzyme elevations. The public should be aware of the potential liver injury from the consumption of high-dose green tea-based products.


Combination Cisplatin and Sulforaphane Treatment in Epidermal Squamous Cell Carcinoma

A basket full of green vegetablesNearly 10% of epidermal squamous cell carcinomas recur as highly aggressive and invasive cancers that develop chemoresistance. Sulforaphane (SFN), found in cruciferous vegetables, may be a useful co-therapy agent to kill chemoresistant tumor cells. Kerr and colleagues examined the impact of co-treatment with SFN and cisplatin on skin cancer cells. Combined treatment of SFN and cisplatin was more efficient than either treatment alone at suppressing cell proliferation, growth of cancer stem cell spheroids, matrigel invasion and migration of SCC-13 and HaCaT cells. SFN and cisplatin both suppressed tumor formation, and combined treatment was synergistic. Both agents reduced the number of tumor-resident cancer stem cells and increased tumor apoptosis; SFN treatment of cultured cells or tumors increased apoptosis and p21Cip1 level. Although these findings suggest that SFN and cisplatin combination may be a useful therapy in squamous cell carcinoma, clinical studies are needed to elucidate the role of this combination therapy.

Silibinin-Mediated Inhibition of UVB Radiation-Induced Skin Carcinogenesis Depends on p53

Image of a Milk thistle flower.Silibinin, a naturally occurring flavonolignan from Milk thistle, has been reported to inhibit both ultraviolet B (UVB) and chemical-induced skin carcinogenesis in animal models. Although the mechanism of silibinin efficacy has not been completely established, its protective effects are thought to be mediated through the tumor suppressor gene p53. Rigby and colleagues backcrossed p53 knockout mice (C57B1/6 background) into the SKH-1 hairless mouse to delineate the role of p53 in the protective effects of silibinin treatment against UVB-induced skin carcinogenesis. They found that treatment with silibinin pre- and post-UVB exposure decreased the skin tumor formation with similar effects on tumor incidence, multiplicity and volume in the p53+/+ SKH-1 hairless mice. However, the chemopreventive efficacy of silibinin against UVB-induced skin carcinogenesis was abrogated in p53+/- and p53-/- mice. Clinical studies are needed to determine silibinin’s role as a chemopreventive agent against UVB-induced skin carcinogenesis.


Portrait of Yael Vodovotz, PhDYael Vodovotz, PhD is a Professor and director of CAFFRE (Center for Advanced Functional Foods, Research and Entrepreneurship) at the Ohio State University (OSU) College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, where she works on physico-chemical and molecular properties of foods with an emphasis on carbohydrate systems and functional foods using techniques borrowed from polymer and material sciences. Her laboratory has been formulating foods as targeted delivery of bioactives that are easily incorporated into traditional diets. Dr. Vodovotz received her BS in food science from the University of Illinois, her MS in food science from the University of British Columbia, and her PhD from the University of Massachusetts. In collaboration with the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center and the OSU College of Medicine, Yael is working to discover methods to use foods and food components to prevent cancer or to serve as an adjuvant to traditional cancer therapies.

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Did You Know?

Hearts of Palm: A Delicacy Loved by Many

Image of a wooden spoonful of Hearts of palm.Hearts of palm are the slender, edible ivory-colored inner portion of various palm trees.  Known as the terminal bud, they are literally at the heart of what allows new fronds to grow and without them, the one stemmed palm tree cannot survive. They have been regularly eaten by Aboriginal Americans and are considered a delicacy given the labor-intensive task of harvesting them from wild and thorny palms. Nowadays, hearts of palm often come from Ecuador, Brazil, Costa Rica and Florida and come from the palmito or peach palm, which are cherished for their multiple stems allowing hearts to be harvested while the tree is living.

Hearts of palm are popularly consumed in France and Latin America and are appreciated for their firm, smooth texture and delicate flavor.  Nutritionally, they are a great source of potassium, copper, iron, phosphorus, zinc and vitamins B2, B6 and C.  Try them fresh or canned as an addition to salads, stir-fries, quiches, pastas or pureed in soups and sauces.

Hearts of Palms Culinary Tips

  • Pick ones that have no signs of bruising or browning.
  • Refrigerate fresh hearts immediately; they are typically sealed in plastic wrap.
  • Transfer opened, canned hearts packed in water to a nonmetal container with an airtight cover.
  • Use opened canned hearts within one week of opening.