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Anthony Chapdelaine, Jr., MD, MSPH, Exec. Dir./Sec.*
The most powerful known natural carcinogen, and strongest liver-cancer-producing chemical, aflatoxin comes from a mold. There are over sixteen aflatoxins (aflatoxin B1 is the most toxic) which are naturally produced by the mold Aspergillus flavus on foods stored in hot and humid conditions (as are found in parts of the United States, and especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern China). The mold is found on peanuts (also Brazil nuts, pecans, pistachio nuts, walnuts and some others), but also on cereal grains like rice, wheat, and corn, cottonseed, soybeans, cocoa beans, ginger, sorghum, sweet potatoes, and milk. The FDA considers it a problem only in third-world countries.1, 2, 16
Aflatoxin Promotes Liver Cancer
Aflatoxin is considered a “carcinogen,” or cancer precursor, which can “turn-on” a liver cell’s cancer-producing DNA by causing mutations in the p53 gene. These mutations stop tumor inhibiting “suppressor” genes from working and thus allow malignant tumors to form and progress. (Although not required, Hepatitis B virus is thought to play a role in greatly accelerating aflatoxin production.) It is well-known that aflatoxin B1 on peanuts and rice can cause liver cancer, but the entire group of toxins is also identified as contributing to certain kidney and stomach cancers.3
Aflatoxin Promotes Progression of HIV to AIDS
Free-radicals from substances like benzo(a)pyrene (found in cigarette smoke), dioxin, and aflatoxin can react with a “docking-site” receptor on HIV to promote AIDS. (Breakdown products from these toxins form “free-radicals” which are necessary for progression to AIDS.)4, 5
How to Limit Exposure to Aflatoxin
- Eat as many “organic” non-irradiated foods as possible. (Food irradiation increases the amount of aflatoxin found on the food.)
- Eat “apiaceous” vegetables such as carrots, celery, parsnips, and parley.6
- Eat organic peanuts and peanut butter (which contain none of the pesticides found in non-organic peanuts and peanut butter, and may contain lower levels of aflatoxin than the non-organic).
- Eat US organic pistachios (preferably in the shell), as these contain much less aflatoxin than those from Morocco or Iran (as well as from Turkey, Syria and China). Avoid pistachios with stained or missing shells, or obvious mold, sour taste, or insect damage.2
- Most molds found on refrigerated foods (especially meats) are Aspergillus and it is wise to throw out soft foods with mold (including pears, cottage cheese), whereas you can cut the mold off hard foods (like hard cheeses, apples) and still eat them. Most moldy bread should be thrown out, as you won’t see the mold’s tiny threads as it penetrates throughout the bread.7
- Garlic components have been shown to block oncogenesis (conversion of proto-oncogene to oncogene, thus blocking the cancer-forming process).8 According to Wakunaga Company, originator of scientifically-tested and proven Kyolic® Aged Garlic Extract™, among garlic’s many properties is its ability to help protect against aflatoxin’s role in cancerous mutations.
- Certain clays derived from volcanic ash (betonite, zeolite, montmorillonite) can absorb toxins from the intestinal tract (such as aflatoxin) as well as heavy metals (like mercury), pesticides and herbicides, and viruses.9
- The herb Picrorhiza kurrooa (Kutki), used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, protects the liver from aflatoxin’s cancer-causing effects. It also helps repair the liver from existing damage caused by aflatoxin, viruses, drugs like acetaminophen, liver-damaging chemicals, and others.10, 11, 12, 13, 14
- An Asian herb, Acanthus ilicifolius (known in India as Harkach Kanta) was found to protect against chromosomal damage (single-strand DNA breaks and other damage), liver cancer, and other malignant neoplasms in mice.15
* The Coalition for Advanced Cancer Treatment and Prevention a project of The National Fund for Alternative Medicine
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Bad Bug Book (Second Edition), Foodborne Pathogenic Microorganisms and Natural Toxins Handbook, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 2012, http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/CausesOfIllnessBadBugBook/default.htm
- Food for Breast Cancer, 2015, http://foodforbreastcancer.com/foods/pistachio-nuts
- Aguilar F, et al, “Aflatoxin B1 Induces the Transversion of G→T in Codon 249 of the p53 Tumor Suppressor Gene in Human Hepatocytes,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America,1993, 90(18), Pgs. 8586–8590.
- Raloff J, “AIDS Progression Fostered by Dioxin?” Science News, 1995, Apr, 147(14), Pg. 214.
- Jolly PE, et al, “Association between High Aflatoxin B1 Levels and High Viral Load in HIV-Positive People,” World Mycotoxin Journal, 2013, 6(3), Pgs. 255-261.
- Peterson S, et al, “Apiaceous Vegetable Constituents Inhibit Human Cytochrome P-450 1A2 (hCYP1A2) Activity and hCYP1A2-mediated Mutagenicity of Aflatoxin B1,” Food Chem. Toxicol, 2006, 44(9), Pgs. 1474-1484.
- Rabin RC, “Ask Well: Is it Safe to Eat Moldy Bread?” New York Times, October 2015, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/10/29/ask-well-is-it-safe-to-eat-moldy-bread
- Lau BHS, et al, “Allium sativum (Garlic) and Cancer Prevention,” Nutrition Research, 1990, 10, Pgs. 937-948.
- Lipson SM, and Stotzky G, “Specificity of Virus Adsorption to Clay Minerals,” Canadian Journal of Microbiology, 1985, 31(1), Pgs. 50-53.
- Rajeshkumar NV, and Kuttan R., “Inhibition of N-nitrosodiethylamine-induced hepatocarcinogenesis by Picroliv,” J Exp Clin Cancer Res, 2000 Dec, 19(4), Pgs. 459-465, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11277323
- Rajeshkumar NV, and Kuttan R, “Protective effect of Picroliv, the active constituent of Picrorhiza kurroa, against chemical carcinogenesis in mice,” Teratog Carcinog Mutagen, 2001, 21(4), Pgs. 303-313, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11406836
- Rajkumar V, et al, “Antioxidant and Anti-neoplastic Activities of Picrorhiza kurroa Extracts,” Food Chem Toxicol, 2011 Feb, 49(2), Pgs. 363-369, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21081148
- Rastogi R, et al, “Biochemical Changes Induced in Liver and Serum of Aflatoxin B1-treated Male Wistar Rats: Preventive Effect of Picroliv,” Pharmacol Toxicol, 2001 Feb, 88(2), Pgs. 53-58, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11169162
- Mehrotra R, et al, “In Vitro Studies on the Effect of Certain Natural Products Against Hepatitis B virus,” Indian J Med Res., 1990 Apr, 92, Pgs. 133-138, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2370093
- Chakraborty T, et al, “Acanthus ilicifolius Plant Extract Prevents DNA Alterations in a Transplantable Ehrlich Ascites Carcinoma-bearing Murine Model,” World J Gastroenterol, 2007 Dec 28, 13(48), Pgs. 6538–6548.
- Arino A, et al, “Aflatoxins in Bulk and Prepackaged Pistachios Sold in Spain and Effect of Roasting,” Food Control, 2009 Sept, 20(9), Pgs. 811-814.