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Mate tea compounds kill colon cancer

U. ILLINOIS (US) — Human colon cancer cells die when exposed to the amount of bioactive ingredients in just one cup of yerba mate tea.

For an in vitro study, published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, researchers isolated, purified, and then treated human colon cancer cells with caffeoylquinic acid (CQA) derivatives from mate tea. As the scientists increased the CQA concentration, cancer cells died as a result of apoptosis. The tea has been consumed for years in South America for medicinal purposes.

“The caffeine derivatives in mate tea not only induced death in human colon cancer cells, they also reduced important markers of inflammation,” says Elvira de Mejia, associate professor of food chemistry and food toxicology at the University of Illinois.

That’s important because inflammation can trigger the steps of cancer progression she says. “Put simply, the cancer cell self-destructs because its DNA has been damaged.”

The ability to induce apoptosis, or cell death, is a promising tactic for therapeutic interventions in all types of cancer.

For this study, researchers were able to identify the mechanism that led to cell death. Certain CQA derivatives dramatically decreased several markers of inflammation, including NF-kappa-B, which regulates many genes that affect the process through the production of important enzymes. Ultimately cancer cells died with the induction of two specific enzymes, caspase-3 and caspase-8, de Mejia says.

“If we can reduce the activity of NF-kappa-B, the important marker that links inflammation and cancer, we’ll be better able to control the transformation of normal cells to cancer cells,” she adds.

The results of the study strongly suggest that the caffeine derivatives in mate tea have potential as anti-cancer agents and could also be helpful in other diseases associated with inflammation.

But, because the colon and its microflora play a major role in the absorption and metabolism of caffeine-related compounds, the anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects of mate tea may be most useful in the colon.

“We believe there’s ample evidence to support drinking mate tea for its bioactive benefits, especially if you have reason to be concerned about colon cancer. Mate tea bags are available in health food stores and are increasingly available in large supermarkets,” she says.

The scientists have already completed and will soon publish the results of a study that compares the development of colon cancer in rats that drank mate tea as their only source of water with a control group that drank only water.

The work was funded by the University of Illinois Research Board and Puangpraphant’s Royal Thai Government Scholarship.

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chat7 Comments


  1. Leandro Pisaroni

    Mate Tea, is not consumed with medical purposes, it is a very common beverage in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, like coffee o regular tea. And usually is consumed in the “mate”, not just the mate tea.

  2. MarkmBha


  3. Nick

    Nice results, but I have one question mate tea is heavily consumed in Uruguay and the second highest rate of cancer there is colon cancer, it seems like is not working then or there maybe some other factor that do not let the mate to attack colon cancer in the body as it does in the lab.

  4. Edwin Nirdlinger

    Is there a lower incidence of colon cancer in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay?

  5. Ernesto

    The incidence of colon cancer is higher in places where grilled food/meat is an every day meal. Such as Uruguay and Argentina are famous for their steak quality.

  6. steve creamer

    send additional info

  7. Tomas Vegas

    Certainly, mate is a good source of antioxidants and vitamins. I am not surprised about the healthy effects on cancer.
    Regarding the person who asked why colon cancer is very common in countries with high intake of mate, my answer is the food. People in those countries are heavy red meat consumers.
    Human gastrointestinal tract was built basically to eat vegetables, hence we are vegetarians by nature. The reason why we eat meat comes from the time of ice age, when most veggies disappeared due to freezing temps on the surface of Earth.
    Actually, more and more evidence in medical journals articles recognize the truth about the association between vegetarianism and good health.
    “may your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food”.

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