Can carrots prevent bowel cancer?
We asked associate professor Morten Kobæk Larsen to explain what it is about carrots that is so great in connection with bowel cancer specifically.
Researchers from the Surgical Research Unit at the Department of Clinical Research and Odense University Hospital - Svendborg Sygehus have been researching the effect of carrots on bowel cancer for 15 years.
Currently, they have received a grant of five million DKK to test whether carrot juice can prevent the development of bowel cancer.
What have you found out in the 15 years you have researched the area?
Through experiments on cell cultures and animal trials as well as register studies on humans, we have obtained results that suggest that the substances falcarinol and falcarindiol from carrots inhibit inflammation and prevent the development of bowel cancer.
Back in 2017, we showed in a study on rats that the defense substances falcarinol and falcarindiol, which are found in carrots, can reduce the number of tumors in the rats' intestines by up to 83 percent. Our experiments also showed that such an effect can be achieved by daily consumption of 3-4 carrots.
Since then, we have found through register studies and surveys that people who (have said they) eat raw carrots daily have a reduced risk of developing bowel cancer.
If it turns out that we can inhibit or prevent the development of precursors of bowel cancer in our clinical trials on patients, we will investigate in the future whether we can prevent cancer and other diseases in the entire Danish population
What is new in the upcoming project?
The next natural step is to conduct a clinical study to investigate whether bowel cancer can be prevented in humans. At the same time, in collaboration with the Clinical Genetics Department, we will investigate which parameters for inflammation and cancer are affected by the substances from the carrots.
In the clinical study, patients at Odense and Karolinska University Hospitals who have had precursors of cancer removed from the intestine will be invited to participate in the project, where they will take daily 100 ml of carrot juice for 1 year.
After 1 year, the patients will undergo routine examination and the number and size of new precursors of bowel cancer will be counted and compared with a group of similar patients who do not receive the carrot juice.
- The Surgical Research Unit SATCC at the Department of Clinical Research and OUH Svendborg Sygehus is researching advanced adenomas and early colon cancer, including prevention.
- Together with the Clinical Genetics Department at OUH, Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm and Umeaa University in Umeaa, they have received a grant from the "Danmark" Health Insurance Fund of five million DKK for a project where patients will drink carrot juice daily.
- Professor Gunnar Baatrup from the Surgical Research Unit OUH has received the grant, and associate professor Morten Kobæk Larsen will be the project leader in the project
Why carrot juice, if patients could just eat carrots?
If you consume 100 ml of carrot juice, it corresponds to eating 250 grams of carrots. The carrot, which the juice is made of, is purple and is specially selected for the experiment, as it contains more falcarinol and falcarindiol than normal carrots.
So, in this experiment, we choose the most effective way to consume carrots, namely a concentrated juice made from the carrots that contain most of the substances that give the effect.
What are the perspectives/what do you hope to achieve from the project?
If you have to consume carrots or carrot juice every day, you need to be motivated to do so. The project is carried out in collaboration with Umeaa University, which will experiment with carrots and juice and find a setup where patients with a high risk of bowel cancer in the future can consume carrots every day.
If it turns out that we can inhibit or prevent the development of precursors of bowel cancer in our clinical trials on patients, we will investigate in the future whether we can prevent cancer and other diseases in the entire Danish population.
Can everyone get hold of the carrot juice and start preventing getting bowel cancer?Through collaboration with companies such as Danroots, Orskov Food, Naturfrisk Group and Aarstiderne, we have developed a value chain where we can produce carrot juice that will be delivered directly to trial participants in Denmark and Sweden.
The carrot juice is not yet available on the Danish and Swedish market, but there are plans to cultivate new and more healthy carrots and produce juice from them in the future.
Meet the researcher
Morten Kobæk Larsen is associate professor at The Biomedical Laboratory and works with research on preventing colectoral cancer.