Barley grass is the young green leaves of the barley plant, and it is one among several beneficial grasses that are regularly consumed in the United States. It contains a wide range of vitamins and nutrients, such as the several B vitamins, calcium, iron, vitamin C and beta-carotene, Drugs.com notes. Barley grass is seen as a health food, and is frequently taken in juice form. There also is interest in barley grass for its potential capability to help to prevent cancer.
Types of Cancer
Cancer takes many forms, as MedlinePlus explains. It can develop practically anywhere in the human body, such as the lungs, bones, nerves, or skin. Of these types, lung cancer causes the most deaths. Divided by gender, the most common cancers in American men are the following: prostate cancer, lung cancer, and colon cancer. Women, on the other hand, most commonly experience breast cancer, followed by colon cancer and lung cancer. There are many possible causes for this disease, such as exposure to environmental toxins, radiation, obesity, alcoholism, genetic problems and viruses. Many cancers, however, still develop due to reasons unknown.
Cancer's Effects and Symptoms
The specific effects of cancer depend on the type and its location in the body. Many types do not cause any symptoms to appear at all; others, such as pancreatic cancer, only cause symptoms when the disorder has progressed to an advanced stage. In general, however, most cancers cause one or more of the following effects: unexplained weight loss, chills, fever, fatigue, malaise, skin changes, night sweats, non-healing sores, bloody stools, lumps, and loss of appetite.
Effects of Barley Grass on Cancer
Studies show that barley grass extracts might possibly protect human cells against cancer-causing elements, Drugs.com reports. Research indicates that the chlorophyll content in barley grass interacts with carcinogens and causes them to become inactive. Aside from this, barley grass also has antioxidant properties. Superoxide dismutase, a chemical in barley grass and green barley juice, blocks the harmful effects of free radicals and radiation on your body, thereby reducing the risk of cancer; furthermore, clinical studies involving animals showed that individuals who had wheat grass in their diet had lower incidences of cancer. However, as of 2011 there were no conclusive studies about the effectiveness of barley grass for the treatment of cancer in humans.
Antioxidants and Cancer
Antioxidants such as those found in barley grass help to fight against cancer since they prevent free radicals from damaging the body’s DNA. However, recent research paints a contradictory picture, as Cancer Research UK reports. Harvard Medical School researchers testing breast cells found that antioxidants actually helped to keep cancer cells alive. This finding was countered by a clinical study in 2011, which showed that antioxidant medication could help to stave off cancer cells at the genetic level, as Science Daily noted. This conflict in results seems to suggest that the relationship between antioxidants and cancer is much more complex than it may seem.
- Cancer Research UK; “Antioxidants and Cancer – The Plot Thickens”; October 2009
- Drugs.com; Barley Grass; 2009
- MedlinePlus; Cancer; August 2010
- National Cancer Institute; Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention: Fact Sheet; July 2004
- Science Daily; “Genetic Evidence That Antioxidants Can Help Treat Cancer”; February 2011