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Clients in the News – Ohio State Scientists Create Candy that May Join Fight Against Cancer

Ohio State cancer researchers are using the black raspberry based foods to see if they can improve post-surgery outcomes for men with prostate cancer. Image: Kenneth Chamberlain, Ohio State Univ.

Whether it’s a plate or pyramid, healthy eating guidelines always give fruits and vegetables center stage – and for good reason: they contain critical nutrients that the human body needs and that experts think may help prevent illnesses like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

The research around these “superfoods” make headlines almost daily, but scientists say using foods-as-medicine in large-scale clinical trials – which demand an intense level of accuracy and consistency – is actually very challenging.

“Variations in storage, seasonal availability, absorption – these things can all change disease-fighting substances in fresh produce,” says Yael Vodovotz, a food scientist with The Ohio State Univ. Department of Food Science and Technology who started her career creating a viable Mars colony food system for NASA. “For instance, if we give study participants a daily cup of fruit – these variations can make drawing high-quality conclusions about the fruit’s efficacy to prevent or slow disease difficult. And using fresh produce in large, multi-center studies is impractical.”

In 2009, Vodovotz’s team was approached by scientists from Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center who challenged her to create a superfood-based product that could meet the same level of standards — and simplicity of use — expected of man-made drugs used in clinical studies.

Supported by grants from Ohio State’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) and Food Innovation Center (FIC), Vodovotz has now developed novel black raspberry-based functional foods that can withstand the rigors of a large-scale cancer prevention trial.

Black raspberries — not to be confused with the more recognizable red variety — have piqued the interest of cancer scientists in the last decade due to research showing they have distinct antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that appear to inhibit tumor growth. But the berries are only grown in a few places around the U.S. (Ohio being one of them), and like many of their berry cousins, must be refrigerated and eaten within a few days of picking.

“We set out to create a product that had the same level of quality and stability you would find in a pharmaceutical medicine, but that was 100 percent fruit, simple to take and retained high levels of chemopreventive bioactives,” says Vodovotz.

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