View Full Version : Koreans and Cancer

02-09-2008, 10:55 PM
So I'm in Seoul right now and a show comes on about how cancer is the biggest killer in Korea. It is *very* hard to avoid pepper here and almost everything I eat is somewhat spicy. I've seriously eaten kim chee flavored chocolate here.

After reading the latest Performance Menu I think there might be some interesting epidemiological studies about kim chee and cancer, but I'm sure the Koreans wouldn't particularly like them.

I've also heard from people here that stomach cancer in particular is a big problem for people. I don't know much else, nor can I cite studies, but it is interesting all the same. I've asked Koreans if they think the high cancer rates are because of pepper consumption and they seem to believe it is because of the soju.

Anyway, that's just some interesting anecdotal evidence Dr. Smith and a few others might be interested in.

Garrett Smith
02-10-2008, 01:02 PM
I have seen some studies on gastric cancer and Koreans:
1 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9209012?ordinalpos=11&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsP anel.Pubmed_RVDocSum)
2 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11802218?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsP anel.Pubmed_RVAbstractPlusDrugs1)
3 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7797354?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsP anel.Pubmed_RVAbstractPlusDrugs1)
4 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12085253?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsP anel.Pubmed_RVAbstractPlusDrugs1)
I would guess that due to the ubiquitous presence of peppers in their food, as you alluded to, it's next to impossible to "control" for the amount of peppers they consume. Also, the researchers themselves may have personal tastes for spicy food, and thus taint the intention/goal of the study(s). So the researchers simply look to other "reasons"--it's really hard to tell a whole culture/country that their accustomed foods are possibly killing them insidiously.

It's much easier to point the finger at HFCS and trans fats than a fruit (peppers are a fruit) that everyone thinks has health benefits.

Almost forgot, the soju definitely isn't helping matters, as I believe alcohol consumption is an independent risk factor for gastric (and probably most other) cancers. Here's one, looking at tobacco and/or alcohol consumption as independent risk factors for gastric cancer...
Smoking, alcohol and gastric cancer risk in Korean men: the National Health Insurance Corporation Study. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17637680?ordinalpos=3&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsP anel.Pubmed_RVDocSum)

What confuses the heck out of me is why I'm the first person to be putting all of this together...right place, right time, I guess!

02-11-2008, 01:36 AM
Now, I'm not the best translator in the world, but probably one of few that populates these boards. This quote from a newspaper (http://news.hankooki.com/lpage/society/200510/h2005102611381621950.htm) says this:

최근의 연구 결과들은 오히려 고추나 캅사이신이 발암억제제 또는 항암제로 작용할 수 있다고 보고하고 있다.

"Recent research shows that on the contrary red pepper or capsaicin can act as an anticancer medicine or as a cancer suppressor."

Then they say,

캅사이신은 위에서 생성되는 대표적 발암물질인 나이트로소아민의 돌연변이성을 억제하는 한편, 암세포에 넣었을 경우 아폽토시스를 통한 암세포의 자살을 유도함으로써 항암작용을 나타내는것으로 확인되었다.

"For one, the mutation of nitrosamine, the well-known carcinogen which is produced in the stomach, is repressed by capsaicin. In the case of putting it on cancer cells, it acts as a cancer suppressor by inducing the suicide of cancer cells through apoptosis."

Now I'm not sure the validity of that at all, but I thought you might like to hear a differing view, though I think the author of that piece misused the term "apoptosis," as that is a programmed cell death, not one caused by an external agent, as I understand it. And I'm not sure about the safety of something that causes cell "suicide," as he calls it.

I tend to find the last Performance Menu pretty persuasive and I know people can be *very* protective of national foods.

The article also said the exact opposite that you did and said that Latin Americans have a relatively low rate of stomach cancer. The protection, they say, is the mucous that lines the stomach is protected when the capsaicin causes the food in question to be expelled faster..

The Koreans in one of the papers you cited said this,

A significant decrease in GC risk was observed with increased intake of Baiechu kimchi (prepared with salted Chinese cabbage and red pepper, etc.), Baiechu kimchi-stew, garlic, mushroom and soybean milk. On the contrary, a significant increase in the risk of GC was observed with increased intake of cooked rice with bean, charcoal grilled beef, pollack soup, Kkakduki (a kind of kimchi prepared with salted radish and red pepper, etc.), Dongchimi (a kind of kimchi prepared with radish and a large quantity of salt water) and cooked spinach.

Not that I'm trying to fight, but I'd like to see the methodology they used. It doesn't seem like they even controlled for red pepper specifically, which is almost impossible in Korea, but rather for intake of fruits and vegetables. I tend to agree with your suspicion of bias, as the thought might not even cross their minds, given the above Korean article.

In your view, does salt intake really cause a rise in cancer risk, as those articles are saying?

What confuses the heck out of me is why I'm the first person to be putting all of this together...right place, right time, I guess!

Well, I guess you'll get some credit for putting 2 and 2 together when it comes to light to everyone else.

Garrett Smith
02-11-2008, 05:31 AM
As I mentioned in the article, most of the studies displaying anticarcinogenic/antimutagenic properties of capsaicin are done in vitro. The line from the article you mentioned is definitely on in vitro cell lines.

As for Latin Americans having lower amounts of gastric cancer in general, I can't really speak to that, as I am not familiar with nightshade consumption across all of the different cultures/countries in Latin America (which is quite a few). Another idea is that different genetic tendencies might lead to cancer development in different areas (ie. gastric cancer in Koreans, gall bladder cancer in Latin Americans).

As for salt intake, I personally put table salt on the same level as table sugar. More drug than food. From what I've heard, the amount of salt on certain pickled items and "salted" foods can get pretty outrageous, so it is very possible that it could cause big problems--especially when combined with synergistic compounds (ie. alcohol, nightshades, combustion/cooking byproducts, nitrates/nitrites, etc.).

Tom Rawls
02-13-2008, 07:06 AM
wasn't quite sure where to post this little item about Candidate Clinton's consumption of hot peppers:


02-14-2008, 12:45 AM
Thanks for the input, Dr. G. As for Hillary, I don't have much to say.

Garrett Smith
02-14-2008, 09:47 AM
Not to turn this into a political discussion, but the stress of the campaign trail combined with a high intake of hot peppers will likely show itself in a diagnosis sooner rather than later. All anecdotal, of course.

That last mention in the article about not being able to sleep is likely due to irritation of the system, not increased energy.

The vitamin C justification is weak from spicy peppers (red bell peppers aren't spicy, they have no capsaicin) in particular, even when compared to oranges. See the list here:http://whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=109#foodsources