Over the last 13 or 14 months during which we have discussed many breast cancer topics, it has become clear that many foods appear to have cancer fighting benefits, most likely due to a variety of natural chemicals found in these foods. One plant chemical that we have not discussed is ursolic acid. Ursolic acid is a plant chemical found naturally in a variety of fruits and herbs. While only a small amount of research has been done to date on ursolic acid and breast cancer, early cell culture studies suggest that ursolic acid can suppress breast cancer cell growth. A new breast cancer study explored the ability of ursolic acid to prevent breast cancer development .
In this new breast cancer research study, investigators fed mice one of four diets: (1) a control diet, (2) a 0.05% ursolic acid diet [54 mg/kg body weight/day], (3) a 0.10% ursolic acid diet [106 mg/kg body weight/day], and (4) a 0.25% ursolic acid diet [266 mg/kg body weight/day]. After consuming these diets for 3 weeks, the study mice were injected with breast cancer cells, after which they continued to consume their assigned diets for an additional 5 weeks. Differences in breast cancer tumor formation and cell growth were explored. Results of this mouse breast cancer study showed that
Breast cancer cell growth was reduced by all three levels of dietary ursolic acid
The 0.10% ursolic acid diet was the most effective since breast cancer tumors grew the least in animals fed this diet.
Ursolic acid appeared to reduce breast cancer tumor growth by disrupting the cell growth cycle and inducing programmed cell death.
These are interesting and potentially promising results that suggest dietary ursolic acid might help fight breast cancer. Future studies will need to be done to see if the benefits observed in this mouse study are seen in human trials. The most effective dose in this study was 106 mg/kg body weight/day, which would translate to a whopping 8.5 grams daily for a 175-pound person. Therefore, finding a more reasonable and still beneficial dose likely will be an important part of future studies.
The herb rosemary is one of the most well known sources of ursolic acid, but ursolic acid is also found in apples, bilberries, elderberries, cranberries and other herbs like basil, peppermint, thyme, and oregano. While you won't be able to get large amounts of usrolic acid in your diet from these foods, they are all a good part of a healthy, well-balanced and flavorful diet, making them good choices to consider when planning your meals and snacks.