Health benefits of pineapples

D’oh Canada!

A pineapple displayed on a gatepost once indicated that a sailor had returned from an ocean voyage. This was back in pre-industrial times when pineapples were still quite exotic to many landlubbers but fairly common to international sailors who were responsible for the worldwide proliferation of the fruit from its native South America.

The seafaring attraction to the fruit is easily explained: Pineapples are abundant in vitamin C – a perfect food for preventing scurvy on long voyages. But there’s another important component in pineapples called bromelain that provides several health benefits. New research from Australia reveals that bromelain may turn out to be much more significant than previously imagined.

One-two punch

In the e-Alert “Rolling With the Breaks” (7/7/04), I told you about bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme that has been shown to break down fibrin, a protein that promotes the blood clotting that can obstruct circulation. In addition, bromelain reduces inflammation, swelling and joint pain, making it a safe alternative to over-the-counter pain-killers.

Previous animal research has shown that bromelain appears to reduce some types of cancer tumors while also helping prevent metastasis: the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. The mechanisms that produce these results may have been discovered by researchers at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) in Brisbane, Australia.

The scientists looked at two molecules found in bromelain. One, called CCS, appears to block a protein that is defective in nearly a third of all cancers. The other, called CCZ, activates specific immune cells that are prompted to recognize and kill cancer cells. In animal studies conducted by the QIMR team, the one-two punch of CCS and CCZ was found to be effective in controlling four cancer types: lung, breast, ovarian and bowel.

In an interview with, team leader Tracey Mynott, M.D., stated that tumor growth may be inhibited by as much as 70 percent, “and what’s more important was that there was no evidence of any toxicity in these animals at all.”

Much more research will be necessary to determine the effects of these bromelain proteins on cancer patients. Meanwhile, Dr. Mynott and her QIMR associates have already received funding for a new study that they hope will advance this research one step closer to clinical trials with human subjects.

The enzyme multi-tasker

We first told HSI members about bromelain in the June 1999 Members Alert, highlighting the enzyme’s effectiveness as an alternative to both acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). And because bromelain helps relieve joint pain for some arthritis patients, it provides another option for patients who previously used Vioxx or one of the other COX-2 inhibitors.

Bromelain can be easily found in many dietary supplement shops and through Internet sources. And although most people don’t experience adverse side effects, some people are allergic to bromelain, and ulcer patients are cautioned to avoid using it. A dose of 500 mg, taken three times each day, is typical for general pain management. But before starting a bromelain regimen, you should consult your doctor or a healthcare professional.

In most cases dietary supplements are best absorbed when taken with meals. But bromelain is the exception to that rule. In thee-Alert “Water Works” (9/16/03), I told you about an important bromelain tip from HSI Panelist Dr. Richard Cohan, D.D.S., M.B.A.

Dr. Cohan wrote, “I believe that it is important that you draw the distinction between bromelain’s activity as a digestive aid when
consumed with a meal, and its effectiveness as a pain modulator when consumed before a meal or three hours thereafter (depending how much fat was consumed and therefore how long digestive juices are present in the stomach). It apparently has no effect on pain when consumed with a meal.”

“Hidden Powers of the Pineapple” Queensland Institute of Medical
Research, 7/7/05,
“Pineapple Stems May Bring New Hope in Fight Against Cancer” Stacey Lloyd, 7/6/05,