Why study these botanicals?

An abundance of epidemiological evidence suggests that the causes of colorectal cancer (CRC) are largely diet-related and/or environmental. People who migrate from low-risk to high-risk prevalence areas of the world acquire a risk of development of CRC that closely parallels that in the high-risk country within one or two generations. In these migration studies the key characteristic has been a change from a prudent diet (rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains) to a more “Western” diet with higher intake of energy-dense foods (meats and carbohydrates), which suggests that the changes in diet are at least partly responsible for the increase in risk. 

Furthermore, because food-derived compounds are constantly present in the intestine, it is reasonable to propose a key role for diet in regulating the homeostasis of the intestinal mucosa. Much attention has been devoted to identifying specific active dietary principles that might confer protection from colorectal carcinogenesis.

In this regard, the Indian diet has been the focus of much scrutiny because the incidence of CRC in the Indian subcontinent is among the lowest in the world and many purported active ingredients of Indian spices have demonstrated potent preclinical chemopreventive activity. In contrast to investigations devoted to the study of single active principles given in relatively high doses as additions to the background diet, we are interested in evaluating the overall influence of an Indian dietary pattern on cancer risk.

Our focus is not only on the complex chemical mixture that constitutes one botanical in the Indian diet but the combination of three such botanicals routinely encountered together in the Indian diet: Curcuma longa (turmeric), Piper nigrum (black pepper), and Zingiber officinale (ginger).