The ever elusive cure for cancer could be on its way to being found as a recent study on anti-cancer and free radical scavenging activity of some Nigerian food plants shows that regular intake of local spices and vegetables such as bitter leaf, uziza and several others could prove effective in tackling the disease.

The study conducted by Nigerians and Chinese was published in the February 25th, 2015 edition of the International Journal of Cancer Research.

According to the research team, the study was designed to screen different extracts of 15 commonly consumed Nigerian food plants for anti-cancer and free radical scavenging activities.

The cytotoxic activity of each of the extracts was then tested against human myeloid leukemia, human hepatocellular carcinoma, human lung carcinoma, human breast adenocarcinoma and colon cancer cell lines using Cisplatin as standard.

The dichloromethane extract of Vernonia amygdalina leaves (bitter leaf) showed the strongest cytotoxic activity against all the cancer cell lines, dichloromethane extract of Gongronema latifolium leaves (utazi) showed the highest activity against A-549 and MCF-7 with IC50 of 9.57 and 6.51 μg mL-1, respectively, while Piper guineense leaves (black pepper or uziza) exhibited the highest activity against HL-60 with IC50 of 3.62 μg mL-1.

Translation: Results from the study suggest that some of the food plants screened may possess anti-cancer and antioxidant properties.

Said the authors,

"This study reveals that several plant foods that are commonly consumed in Nigeria could have anti-cancer potential, which could provide a plausible explanation for the apparently and comparatively lower incidence of cancer.”

Another study on Nigerian foodstuffs with prostate cancer chemo-preventive polyphenols published in Infectious Agent Cancer by Sunday Eneojo Atawodi, found that foods like local pear, nutmeg, tomatoes  widely reported to posses prostate cancer chemo-preventive compounds.

The study concluded by saying:

"The high incidence of prostate cancer among males of African extraction can be dramatically reduced, and the age of onset drastically increased, if the population at risk consumes the right kinds of foods in the right proportion, beginning early in life, especially as prostate cancer has a latency period of about 50 years.”