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Life Extension Magazine

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April 2003

Carcinogens Are Everywhere,
But Do You Have To Worry?

Neutralizing carcinogens

The first lines of defense against the many carcinogens consumed in the diet are agents that prevent gene mutation. Many anti-mutatgenic agents have been identified in fruits and vegetables, the most potent being indole-3-carbinol and chlorophyllin.36 Dietary antioxidants should be considered a secondary line of defense against cancer, since it is more important to inactivate or neutralize carcinogens in the first place than to try to protect the cells and proteins downstream from their effects.

Chlorophyllin is the modified, water-soluble form of chlorophyll that has been tested as an anti-mutagenic agent for more than 20 years. There is a very large body of data concerning the anti-cancer and anti-mutagenic effects of chlorophyllin, but much less information on the effects of chlorophyll itself.36,37

For example, chlorophyllin can cross cell membranes, organelle membranes and the blood-brain barrier, while chlorophyll cannot. Chlorophyllin enters even into the mitochondria, the energy-producing organelles of the cell where the majority of free radicals are produced.38,39 Chlorophyllin protects mitochondria from a variety of external chemical, biological and radiation insults.38-40

The Life Extension Foundation introduced members to the anti-mutagenic effects of chlorophyllin back in 1989. The recommendation to supplement with chlorophyllin was based on a study published in the journal Mutation Research (1986 Feb;173(2):111-5) showing that this plant extract was a more effective anti-mutagenic agent than all other known anti-cancer vitamins at that time.

What impressed us most about the Mutation Research study was that chlorophyllin suppressed the mutagenic activity of carcinogens such as fried pork, diesel emissions and coal dust by more than 90%! No other supplement came close to chlorophyllin's ability to inhibit deadly gene mutations.

The great majority of studies about chlorophyllin's health benefits concern its anti-mutagenic and anti-carcinogenic properties. Chlorophyllin 'traps' heterocyclic hydrocarbon carcinogens by reacting with their 'backbone,' making it impossible for them to form adducts with DNA.41,42

The most notorious of all human dietary carcinogens are aflatoxin B-1 and aflatoxin B-2. These aflatoxins occur all over the world in fungus-infected rice, wheat, rye and other staple grains, and they have been found in a variety of U.S. crops. Aflatoxin-infected crops are more of a problem in third world countries such as China, where in certain provinces the farmers there experience the highest liver cancer rates in the world.55


In a landmark study, researchers demonstrated a 55% reduction in aflatoxin urinary biomarkers compared to controls by giving the farmers 100 mg of chlorophyllin three times a day with their meals. The scientists estimated that the induction period needed for this type of cancer to develop was extended from 20 years to 40 years by supplementing with chlorophyllin. The authors noted that chlorophyllin tablets are the least expensive and most cost-effective means of preventing these types of cancers48-55 It should be noted that there is a powerful relationship between dietary aflatoxin reduction, DNA adducts, and the lowering of cancer rates in both humans and animals.9,21-23,30

A study compared the anti-cancer properties of green tea, black tea and chlorophyllin.41 The conclusion of this study and the other studies comparing teas and chlorophyllin are that chlorophyllin is a far more potent anti-mutagenic agent, protecting against a far wider range of carcinogens than tea.41 In one study, teas did not degrade at all the mutagen N-hydroxy-IQ found in cooked meat, while with chlorophyllin it was rapidly rapidly degraded.

In human breast cell studies, chlorophyllin was one of the most effective compounds protecting against DNA adduct formation, inhibiting adduct formation by 65%.56

In vitro studies with chlorophyllin show it to be an inhibitor of the cytochrome P-450 liver enzymes.57 All of the in vivo [whole animal] studies where cytochrome P-450 enzyme activity is reduced resulted in lower cancer rates and longer life span.35

Chlorophyllin is a low cost and widely available dietary supplement. It is especially important to take 100 mg of chlorophyllin with foods that are heavily cooked, as this is where exposure to most carcinogens occurs.

Additional protection against carcinogens

Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is found in anti-cancer vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. When I3C is given to rodents before they are treated with cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens), up to 90% of the cases of mammary cancer that would ordinarily develop do not. If I3C is given at the same time as cancer-causing chemicals, the number of tumors can be reduced by 96%.

High levels of toxic
rocket fuel found in lettuce

Eating lettuce or other vegetables grown in fields irrigated by the Colorado River may expose consumers to a larger dose of toxic rocket fuel than is considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to test data and documents obtained by the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org).

Test results, never before made public, show that leafy vegetables grown with contaminated irrigation water take up, store and concentrate potentially harmful levels of perchlorate, a thyroid toxin that is the main explosive ingredient of rocket and missile fuel.

According to the Wall Street Journal (Jan 30, 2003), this rocket fuel ingredient (perchlorate) has contaminated numerous drinking water wells in Southern California, Southern Nevada and Arizona. Vegetables grown along the Colorado River are shipped to consumers throughout the United States, and thus even people who eat organic vegetables cannot escape perchlorate contamination in these areas.

The estimated cost to clean up these polluted wells is 19 billion dollars, but only 220 million dollars a year is being spent. At this rate, it will take 86 years to remove just this one toxic agent from the water in these polluted areas.


One of the ways I3C protects cells against cancerous changes is by preventing DNA damage. I3C protects DNA not only in breast tissue, but in other tissues as well. A study from the Medical College of Ohio shows that I3C can cut the rate of DNA damage from chemicals in breast tissue by almost 92%.58 Others have shown that I3C decreases DNA damage in white blood cells by 82%, colon 67% and liver 69%. This would seem almost unbelievable if it hadn't been confirmed by others who have shown that I3C can reduce DMBA-induced liver adducts by 90%, lung and trachea by 55% and other tissues by similar amounts.59

I3C's potential as a chemopreventive agent was confirmed in a study funded by the National Cancer Institute where 90 different cancer preventatives were put through six different tests of cancer prevention. Some of the other compounds shown to be effective in all six assays were folic acid, ascorbic acid and tocopherol succinate (vitamin E).

Another potential action of I3C against chemical cancers is its potential to keep dioxin and other chlorine chemicals out of cells. Dioxin is so toxic it is measured in parts per trillion. (Other toxic chemicals are measured in parts per billion.)

Dioxin latches onto a receptor on cells known as the aryl hydrocarbon receptor, through which it gains access into cells. I3C can partially block that receptor and keep dioxin out. In 1995, a national report published in six volumes was issued on the toxic effects of dioxin.60 The main dietary source of dioxin is meat and dairy products. I3C not only protects cells against synthetic carcinogens like dioxin, but also dangerous natural carcinogens formed when meat is cooked, such as heterocyclic amines.

Depending on weight, most women take 400 mg a day of I3C, while most men take about 600 mg/day. When I3C initially came out in supplement form, it was prohibitively expensive. More efficient production methods have made it much more affordable.

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