[EDIT: I’m still getting emails asking how best to consume lemons for their anti-cancer effect here’s a disclaimer: Lemons Are NOT A Therapeutic Agent For Cancer Treatment. It Is A Hoax. This Post Is NOT Medical Advice. If you Have Medical Questions Please See A Doctor. Also Please Read the FULL Post Which Continues Past The Green Text]
The surprising benefits of lemon!
Institute of Health Sciences, 819 N. L.L.C. Charles Street Baltimore , MD 1201.
This is the latest in medicine, effective for cancer!
The source of this information is fascinating: it comes from one of the largest drug manufacturers in the world, says that after more than 20 laboratory tests since 1970, the extracts revealed that: It destroys the malignant cells in 12 cancers, including colon, breast, prostate, lung and pancreas … The compounds of this tree showed 10,000 times better than the product Adriamycin, a drug normally used chemotherapeutic in the world, slowing the growth of cancer cells. And what is even more astonishing: this type of therapy with lemon extract only destroys malignant cancer cells and it does not affect healthy cells.
No, I haven’t turned to the dark side, yet. The above was sent to me by a workmate and I have reproduced it here, complete with eye catching colours. Searching the intertubes reveals that many people have perfected the art of the uncritical copy and paste. Not everyone has “drunk the kool-aid” though.
Lets deconstruct shall we? This is going to be fun.
Initial reading of this “article” throws up numerous red flags that the claim is either wholly made up or exaggerated. First is the allusion to conspiracy, while drug companies can certainly act in nefarious ways this article implies that scientists in general would close ranks and perpetuate the conspiracy. Otherwise why haven’t government funded scientists or otherwise drug company independent scientists picked this up?
Another is the fact that several authoritative sounding statements are made but there is no detail to back them up
1. lemons kill cancer: Well what part of the lemon? where is it most concentrated? what variety is best? how should it be prepared for maximum benefit? what dose?
2. A laboratory has tested it: Well who? Where? what papers were published? what was the experimental set up? was it in vitro or in vivo? what were the results exactly?
3. Lemons are 10,000 times better than chemotherapy. Really? not 8,000 or 12,000 but exactly 10,000? In all situations?
Many fruits and vegetables have potentially therapeutically beneficial compounds, there are promising anticancer compounds in broccoli. But the levels found in the foods are often too low and too variable to be of therapeutic use. But that’s negative thinking, what matters is that the compounds are there and it’s all natural, practicalities are a downer.
This lack of interest in dose response permeates the altmed/pseudoscientific crowd, both in the positive and negative sense. There is no safe dose of toxic compounds and no lower threshold of benefit for “good” compounds. So questions such as “how many lemons would you have to eat to cure your cancer?” become in this context almost nonsensical. While we in the evidence based camp might ask whether it should be 10 or 100 or 1000 lemons, and is that per day? And for how long? Further, how does the concentration of the anticancer component vary with the nutrition of the plant from year to year, or even within a season? How about between plants? Is the component present in the flesh or the skin? Those in the vague, feel good altmed camp are content with the message “Eat Lemons”.
In a laboratory and medical setting active ingredients aren’t extracted from plants and purified or synthesised solely to generate profits for drug companies (though that’s a motivation don’t get me wrong) but to make it easier to work with and quantify the correct therapeutic doses and optimal delivery methods.
Additionally, labs have to get consent for testing drugs on humans so it’s likely that the tests alluded to, if they occurred at all, were on cell cultures. This method can indicate interesting directions for research but does not guarantee that it will turn into a useful therapy. The body is very complex and things that work in a petri dish do not necessarily work in the body. It could break down too fast, or not reach the right tissues effectively, or be modified by metabolic processes or excreted too efficiently or any number of other things. Basic science research is good at generating these sorts of leads but the journey from bench top to consumer is one fraught with pitfalls. Few drugs that appear promising at the outset make it to market.
Another red flag is the number of other conditions it treats. Each of the ailments listed have different causes and treatments, it is highly unlikely that the same thing will combat both high blood pressure and parasites when these have absolutely nothing in common.
Also, much of the text is similar to an article about another “miraculous” fruit, Guyabano, fruit of the Graviola tree.
Points of similarity:
1. We don’t know about it because the drug companies are trying to make a synthetic version to patent.
2. You can help a friend by telling him to drink the juice, the taste is not bad and has no side effects.
3. A large drug company has conducted 20 tests on it since the 1970s.
3. Kills 12 types of cancer.
4. “The tree compounds proved to be up to 10,000 times stronger in slowing the growth of cancer cells than Adriamycin, a commonly used chemotherapeutic drug!”
5. Only kills cancer cells.
Curiously similar given it is a completely different plant being talked about.
Searching the “Health Sciences Institute” (not the Institute of Health Sciences) I couldn’t find anything about Lemon and cancer but a Graviola and cancer search turned up a similar looking article (requires a subscription to read but I suspect it may well be the source of the information for the one at the address above)
So it looks like this is actually a mash up of at least two different claims. I think we are witnessing the birth of a new altmed mythology, right here.
None of this means that Lemons cannot be used as a basis for anti-cancer drugs, in fact I did actually find that there are at least a couple of citrus derived compounds being investigated for anticancer activity[11&12]. Even so, the likelihood that simply eating lemons will cure you of cancer seems quite low, for all the reasons given above.
Multiple lines of evidence appear to be converging on this being if not a scam then at least a confabulation. Well meaning people will forward items like this to friends and relatives without much thought. I consider this to be irresponsible behaviour. As I have pointed out before in the context of chain emails, if we truly want to help our loved ones it behoves us to investigate these claims before passing them on. Whom do we help by perpetuating falsehoods?
2. While searching out instances of this rot I found a breast cancer forum that had posted it, as a joke to be ridiculed. Read it now, it shows how these ridiculous items are actually insulting to those affected by cancer.
3. Like ghost-writing research and review articles in their favour. Yes they are profit driven entities, and yes they can go too far to ensure those profits but they do crucial research and development and we need them.
4. Yanyan Li et al (2010), Sulforaphane, a Dietary Component of Broccoli/Broccoli Sprouts, Inhibits Breast Cancer Stem Cells
Clinical Cancer Research May 1, 2010 16; 2580
5. For example in the anti-vax movement.
6. Like homeopathy, even ZERO isn’t a small enough amount for there to be no benefit.
7. Shoot, I’ve been archiving wecite versions of pages I link to to make sure the don’t vanish without a trace but was too late for this one. http://brneurosci.org/drug-failures.html
8. Not withstanding that everything in the altmed world is linked, it’s all toxins or vibrations or pH or quantum or something.
9. http://guyabano.com/ [webcite] – with another version containing even closer wording here: http://mybongabon.com/samut-sari/the-sour-sop-miraculous-natural-cancer-cell-killer-by-arlyn-roa/ [webcite].
10. 1-year risk-free membership, Brand-New Encyclopedia of HSI’s 100 Greatest Cures and FREE bonus reports :No More Sick Days: The Immune Discovery of the Decade” and “How to Survive the FDA’s 10 Deadliest Hush-ups” for just US$67. [webcite]. You can’t get more credible than that. [article webcite]
11. Chidambara Murthy K.N., et al(2011), Citrus Limonin and Its Glucoside Inhibit Colon Adenocarcinoma Cell Proliferation through Apoptosis.
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
12. Cazal, C.M., et al(2010), Evaluation of effect of triterpenes and limonoids on cell growth, cell cycle and apoptosis in human tumor cell line.
Anti-Cancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry, 10(10):769-76.