Artichokes (Cynara scolymus), otherwise known as globe artichokes, are a member of the thistle family. Artichokes are a dietary source of magnesium, manganese, folate, and vitamin K. Artichokes also contain apigenin, chlorogenic acid (a derivative of caffeic acid), cynarin, silibinin and silymarin, as well as oligofructose compounds such as inulin, most of which have been reported to have anti-cancer properties. Artichokes have been shown to have antioxidant, antifungal, antigenotoxic, liver-protective and hypoglycemic activities, as well as reducing cholesterol and ameliorating indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome.
Breast cancer-related effects of eating artichokes
Artichoke extract has been shown to inhibit proliferation and induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in triple negative (ER-/PR-/HER2-) and HER2/neu overexpressing (HER2+) breast cancer cells in the laboratory. Apigenin has been shown to induce apoptosis across a variety of breast cancer cell lines.
An Italian population study found that the risk of breast cancer was reduced for increasing intake of apigenin, among other flavones. However, no population studies have specifically evaluated the impact of consuming artichokes on the risk of breast cancer.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum), a herb related to the artichoke, traditionally has been used for its liver-protective properties, but increasingly is being used by cancer patients. Milk thistle is the best known source of the compound flavonoid silymarin, which contains silibinin, silybin, silicristin, silidianin and related compounds. Silibinin is the most biologically active component of silymarin. However, silybin has also been shown to inhibit growth and induce apoptosis in human breast cancer cells and HER2+ mammary tumors in a mouse model.
Silymarin has been shown to have a synergistic effect with Adriamycin (Adriamycin), increasing its treatment effects. However, one study found that treatment of human breast cancer tumor grafts in rodents with silymarin isolated from milk thistle stimulated tumor growth. Therefore, we caution breast cancer patients, survivors and those at high risk against taking concentrated milk thistle, artichoke or silymarin supplements.
Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), also known as artichoke thistle or wild artichoke, is an edible thistle-like plant native to the Mediterranean. Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) are part of the sunflower family and are not related to artichokes.
Below are links to recent studies concerning this food. For a more complete list of studies, please click on artichokes.