The Power of Food


The power of food. It’s huge. I remember back when a book came out called Food Is Your Best Medicine, and this concept gets more fortified daily. But it’s complex.

I am sharing with you an article on black rice and how consuming it can make breast cancer cells less likely to kill you. In other words, black rice contains a compound that is proven to have anti-metastatic effects on breast cancer cells, even ones programmed to act aggressively. So if you had a history of breast cancer or currently are battling it, this is a food to consider. Yet, it should be eaten in what is considered moderation (4.5 meals/week.)


Why be moderate with rice? We now know that rice has a persnickety personality in that it absorbs arsenic from surrounding soil and water. This information first came out in 2006 and it’s been verified time and again. Arsenic isn’t good for the immune system or is damaging to the vulnerable cells that line the gut where most of our immune system lives. Darn. Whether black rice absorbs less arsenic because of it’s pigment content, is unknown. But it does have three times the fiber content of even brown rice. And it’s black pigment helps fight virulent breast cancer cells.


How does black rice fight cancer? Black rice, unlike any other rice, because of its black pigments, contains anthocyanins. These are plant pigments in the reddish to black spectrum that tamp down a growth factor in the blood that promotes breast cancer cells to grow outside of the breast and spread (metastasize). This factor is called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (ErbB2) protein. When a breast cancer cell robustly contains this growth factor, it is more likely to metastasize or grow into another tumor (recurrence).

You may have heard of estrogen receptor positive or estrogen receptor negative breast cancer cells. A breast cancer cells can also be ErbB2 positive, or negative, for this growth factor. Having more of this growth factor makes breast cancer cells nastier.

Black rice anthocyanins, when fed orally to mice that had grafted ErB2 positive human breast tumor cells, blocked cancer growth and complications. Feeding the mice these pigments (150 mg/kg/day) reduced transplanted tumor growth (blocked tumor growth), inhibited pulmonary metastasis (blocked mets to the lungs), and decreased lung tumor nodules (shrank existing cancers).

The human breast cancer cell grafts should have been very aggressive. But once the mice ate the black rice pigment, their tumor cells had greatly reduced ability to migrate, stick (adhere), travel (motility) and even invade other tissues.

What is this pigment? Anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments that may appear as different colors from red, purple, blue or black depending on the pH of the food they are found in. They are flavonoids.

Other Options

Other food that contain anthocyanins and should helpful in a similar manner (and with less arsenic than rice contain) are: blueberry, cranberry, bilberry, raspberry, blackberry, blackcurrant, cherry, eggplant peel, Concord grape, muscadine grape, red cabbage, and violet petals.

The highest food ever recorded to contain anthocyanin is black soybean which contains 2,000 mg per 100 g. Anthocyanins are also high in purple corn kernels and husks (does this mean blue corn chips are high in it? I need to research this.)

How to Cook Black Rice

How you cook the black rice affects it anthocyanin content. One study compared cooking methods and found there were different losses of anthocyanins based on different methods of cooking: roasting resulted in the greatest decrease (94%), followed by steaming (88%), pan-frying (86%) and boiling the least (77%). I am going to try to sprout this rice; that seems sensible, safe, and probably really tasty.

The same with arsenic. How you cook rice affects its arsenic content. You can remove about half the arsenic in your rice by rinsing it, cooking it in six parts water to one part rice until it reaches eating texture, then pouring off the extra water.
PS I use black, wild and Basmati brown rice with veggies and nuts for my stuffing in birds. Yum.

Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2014;15(15):6219-25.
Anti-metastasis activity of black rice anthocyanins against breast cancer: analyses using an ErbB2 positive breast cancer cell line and tumoral xenograft model. Luo LP1, Han B, Yu XP, Chen XY, Zhou J, Chen W, Zhu YF, Peng XL, Zou Q, Li SY.

J Sci Food Agric. 2014 Dec;94(15):3296-3304.Effects of four different cooking methods on anthocyanins, total phenolics and antioxidant activity of black rice.


Theme of the Month: You are what you eat… and so is your BRAIN. By Berkson