NEW YORK — Two widely used food preservatives boosted levels of a natural cancer fighter in laboratory animals and appear to do the same thing in humans, a researcher reported Thursday.
Advocates of natural foods have long decried the use of preservatives, but Dr. Andrew Dannenberg of Cornell Medical College found that the preservatives BHA and BHT "revved up" the gene for an enzyme that helps destroy carcinogens before they trigger tumors.
When the genes are cranked up, they produce more of the enzyme, providing better protection against cancer-causing substances in the environment, Dannenberg reported at the International Conference on Cancer Prevention at Rockefeller University in New York.
BHA and BHT are synthetic additives used as preservatives in cookies, crackers and a wide variety of other foods.
The results do not mean that foods should be pumped up with even more preservatives, Dannenberg said. The findings are important because they uncover a cancer prevention mechanism that appears to be part of the explanation for the well-known anti-cancer properties of broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts.