Purple potatoes may contain compounds that help destroy colon cancer stem cells and limit metastasis, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

Researchers from Penn State University wanted to test whether baked purple potatoes maintained anti-cancer properties even after cooking. A baked purple potato was chosen because they were widely consumed and usually baked prior to consumption. Initially, the study team found that the baked potato extract halted the growth of colon cancer stem cells and increased their death in petri dishes. Next, whole baked purple potatoes were tested on mice with colon cancer and they found similar results.

The researchers concluded that several compounds – anthocyanins, chlorogenic acid, and resistant starch – found in purple potatoes affected multiple pathways to help kill the colon cancer stem cells. Gut bacteria use resistant starch as food and convert it into short-chain fatty acids such as butyric acid. Butyric acid regulates immune function in the gut, suppresses chronic inflammation, and may aid in destroying cancer cells.

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Humans would have to eat a medium size purple-fleshed potato for lunch and dinner or one large purple-fleshed potato per day to reap the same benefits. Jairam K.P. Vanamala, associate professor of food sciences at the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, stated that consuming a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables may target many different pathways to suppress the growth of cancer stem cells. He said that food serves as a healthier alternative of primary and secondary prevention of cancer because they have significantly less side effects than drug treatments. Researchers plan to test the whole food approach using purple potatoes for disease prevention and treatment and on other forms of cancer.

For more information visit Live.PSU.edu.