The cancer-fighting powers of natural foods are well known, but in a clinical setting, there are still huge hurdles to overcome and massive amounts of work to be done.
Using natural food compounds in treating, assisting and healing cancer patients doesn’t exactly line up with the current paradigm: chemicals (like chemotherapy), surgery, and synthetic drugs are typically the only options in what has become a multi-billion dollar industry.
Despite the long odds, more information is beginning to surface about the healing potential of natural foods for cancer. And the latest example comes from Georgia, where a middle schooler’s cancer-fighting project is making headlines across the country.
Seventh Grader Fights Cancer With Green Tea
While most kids spend their days raising money for cancer awareness campaigns funded by drug companies, seventh grader Steven Litt took matters into his own hands for his project at the Georgia Science and Engineering Fair.
After creating a makeshift laboratory with his father that included a microscope given to him by his grandparents, the 12-year-old Litt, inspired by a desire to learn more after two family friends were diagnosed with breast cancer, got to work. His project was inspired by an article on lower rates of breast cancer among the Japanese, in connection with an antioxidant found in green tea.
They began testing the specific antioxidant, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG, on worms along with carcinogenic solutions that were mixed by his father for safety purposes.
In total 100 planaria (worms) were used and formed into four groups: one was exposed only to EGCG, and a second group was exposed to EGCG for 24 hours and then to two carcinogens. The third group was exposed to just the two carcinogens, while the fourth group (the control group) was exposed only to spring water. The goal was to figure out if the green tea could inhibit tumor growth.
Over the next four weeks they conducted the experiment, putting the worms under the microscope and discovering that the worms exposed to EGCG and carcinogens grow zero tumors over the time they were studied.
“He stumbled along something because of his foresight, which most kids don’t have,” His father, Lesley Litt, said to CNN. “He really wants to share what he knows, and help people.”
“I’m seriously humbled,” he continued. “It’s an odd feeling to be humbled by your own child. You ask yourself, where did he come from? He has something remarkable.”
For his work, Stephen has been given awards at both the local and state level, and he’s also attracted attention from Tufts University, a private research institution in Massachusetts, which invited him to tour the labs, a privilege typically not afforded to kids his age.
In the future, Stephen has even bigger plans: he wants to inject human cancer cells into worms to see if the EGCG found in green tea will “devour” the cancer, his dad told CNN.
The Stunning Anti-Cancer Properties of Green Tea
As one of the most popular drinks in the world, green tea has also been widely studied for its health benefits, which include support for a healthy metabolism, free radical fighting antioxidants, cancer fighting properties and much more.
When buying green tea it is important to buy a high quality brand, preferably organic, as lower quality brands may contain surprisingly high levels of fluoride.
Among the most powerful compounds in a cup of high quality green tea are catechins and flavonoids, polyphenols that help to fight DNA damaging and disease-causing free radicals within the body.
In terms of anti-cancer benefits, there is much research suggesting the power of green tea for prevention.
A 2005 study found that women who consume green tea have a 22% lower risk of breast cancer, the most common form of cancer among women.
A 2008 study looked at prostate cancer rates among Japanese men and the association with green tea consumption, and found that those who drank the tea had a shocking 48% lower risk of the cancer, which is the most common form affecting men.
And as noted in this article from Authority Nutrition, a study of nearly 70,000 women in China found that those who drank green tea had a 69% lower chance of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, a type of cancer that is especially widespread in the United States.
These anti-cancer benefits are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to green tea: various studies also show that it can help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease, reduce your risk of heart attack, provide energy similar to coffee without the jitters, and even help to slim down the body (it’s particularly effective at eliminating and preventing abdominal fat).
With the undeniably strong health benefits of green tea, the hope for the new generation of holistic health advocates is that more doctors, researchers and hospitals begin putting them to work — especially in new experiments the way Litt and his father did.
This article was written in April 2017 and updated in December 2018.