We tend to think of preservatives in our foods as bad for us, and all too often they are. But now one of them is taking center stage in the war against cancer--and superbugs.
Nisin is peptide found growing in dairy foods, like cheese, yogurt, and milk. It's such an effective bacteria killer that it's used as a preservative in lots of other foods, including processed meats, salad dressings, and sauces, to extend their shelf life. Now a University of Michigan study has found that the preservative can shrink tumors.
After feeding mice "milkshakes" containing mega-doses of purified nisin for nine weeks, researchers discovered that the preservative had killed 70 to 80 percent of cancerous tumors. And because it prevents bad bacteria from growing and spreading, it can be used to treat all sorts of infections, including antibiotic-resistant ones.
Of course, the study was done on mice--and at such high doses that humans would have to gulp down 20 to 30 Advil-sized pills to get the equivalent of a nisin milkshake. Still, the researchers want to take nisin beyond its role as a food preservative, and start clinical trails to test its effectiveness against a host of illnesses, including cancer.
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