Guess what, all-natural foodniks? Your dogged determination to avoid any and all comestibles containing preservatives and things you didn’t learn how to pronounce in high school chemistry class may have just backfired.
That’s right: Our dear friend Science has recently discovered that a common food preservative—a naturally occurring one, at that!—can kill cancer cells and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
More accurately, some very smart scientists discovered this in the course of a study helmed by the University of Michigan, the findings of which will soon appear in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.
The preservative in question is nisin, a natural product of a common strain of lactic acid bacteria that’s used to make buttermilk and cheese. Nisin itself is a bacteriocin, a toxic compound produced by the lactic acid bacteria that serves as a defense mechanism against other, more harmful bugs.
In industrial food production, nisin appears in dairy products, salad dressings and sauces, cooked sausages, canned foods, and even beer. It’s considered safe in 50 countries around the world, including the US, and is effective against listeria, Bacillus cereus, and Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium that causes botulism. Significantly, it was cleared as a safe food additive in 1969 by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives.
In food, however, nisin is only added at a rate of .25 to 37.5 milligrams per kilo. To kill cancer cells, you need to up the dosage.
In the U of M study, researchers fed rats a “nisin milkshake” at a dose of 800 milligrams per kilo, which successfully killed 70 to 80 percent of head and neck cell tumors growing on the test subjects. The study authors note that dosage “would translate to a pill a little bigger than a third of an Advil per kilogram of body weight for people.”
That means you’ll want some pure, uncut nisin straight from the lab. Eating hundreds of kilos of hard cheese will probably kill you before it kills your tumor or your nasty case of MRSA.
Dr. Yvonne Kapila, who helped lead the study, noted that the results of the study are promising, but it’s still too early to call it a cure. She added, however, “Mother Nature has done a lot of the research for us, it’s been tested for thousands of years.”