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Maca & Cancer

by
author image Chris Daniels
Chris Daniels covers advances in nutrition and fitness online. Daniels has numerous certifications and degrees covering human health, nutritional requirements and sports performance. An avid cyclist, weightlifter and swimmer, Daniels has experienced the journey of fitness in the role of both an athlete and coach.
Maca & Cancer
Maca root powder Photo Credit Magone/iStock/Getty Images

Maca is a root that grows in the highlands of South America that is used as a food and in traditional medicine. Chemicals found in maca called glucosinolates are thought to be able to alter hormone signaling. Though in theory maca should be beneficial for hormone-related cancers, no research studies in humans or animals support maca as an alternative treatment for cancer.

About Maca Root

The maca plant is native to Peru and related to cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, but contains higher levels of phytochemicals including glucosinolates. Traditional medicine has used maca root to enhance fertility, sexual performance and to stabilize hormone levels during menopause. Mace is also rich in carbohydrates, amino acids, fiber and fatty acids.

Biological Effects

Maca appears to exert some effect on androgens and estrogens in the body. Although purported to improve libido, sexual performance, infertility and menopause, only weak evidence supports these claims. Maca has not been shown to affect circulating hormone levels in the blood but may affect the action of receptors for these hormones. Maca may also be beneficial in increasing strength and endurance, although no human clinical trials have been conducted.

Cancer Benefits

According to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, while maca may be beneficial in improving overall health and wellness in cancer patients, it has not been shown to be effective in treating cancer itself. Glucosinates in maca may be processed by the body into isothiocyanates, chemicals shown to inhibit some cancer in lab animals. It is unknown whether this occurs in humans.

Safe Supplementation

Reported studies used 1,500 to 3,000 mg of powdered maca root per day. Maca is also available as various extracts, but there is little known about its effectiveness, dosing or toxicity. Maca has been used as a food for centuries and the powdered root is likely safe in small amounts. It is unknown if maca will interact with any medications or medical conditions. Do not substitute maca for medication or medical treatment. If you are currently being treated for cancer or another medical condition, consult with your doctor before starting maca.

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