Your saliva protects you from cancer !!!!!

ImageResearchers at John Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center(2) have found a compound in saliva, which along with common proteins in blood and muscle may protect human cells from toxins in tea, coffee and liquid smoke flavoring. The article cited in Food and Chemical Toxicology(1) journal, suggest that humans can naturally launch multiple defenses against plant chemicals called pyrogallol like polyphenols or PLPs found in tea, coffee, and liquid smoke flavoring. The presence of these natural defenses in people explains why PLPs are not crippling cells and causing illness, as expected from their widespread use.

Johns Hopkins Investigator Scot Kern, M.D., and his colleagues showed that PLPs found in everyday food and flavorings could do significant damage, by breaking strands of DNA. At some stage the damage caused by these toxins (PLPs) were found to be 20 times more than that of chemotherapy drugs, which are used for cancer patients. Baffled by these developments, researcher thought to find out why there was no further damage and how these cells are fighting them back. Kern said, “If these chemicals are so widespread–they’re in flavorings, tea, coffee–and they damage DNA to such a high degree,” adding further, “we thought there must be defense mechanisms that protect us on a daily basis from plants we choose to eat.”

An enzyme in saliva called alpha-amylase, along with the blood protein albumin and muscle cell protein myoglobin, together protected cells from DNA breakage by tea, coffee and isolated PLPs. Researchers measured DNA damage by looking onto the activity levels of p53 gene. A gene that helps in repairing damaged DNA. “It was quite easy to uncover a few of these protective substances against the tested cancer therapeutic drugs, which suggests there may be many more layers of defenses against toxins,” said Kern, the Kovler Professor of Oncology and Pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

It was also found that the saliva enzyme and the proteins did not protect against the chemotherapeutic drugs, which can also damage DNA. This clarifies the fact that, defenses against PLPs may have evolved against a response to natural plant compounds, which is a part of human diet for a long time. Surprisingly, cells did not seem to need these protector proteins after a period of exposure to the toxins. Kern further explains, “After about two weeks we found it difficult to get the cells to be damaged by the same chemicals, even if they were damaged by the chemicals weeks earlier.” He further adds, “They seem to have some innate ability to respond to the damage or sense it and somehow protect themselves against it, even in the absence of albumin, muscle proteins or saliva components.” “It made us wonder, do people who eat the same PLP-containing diet day after day develop a natural cellular protection to the toxins,” Kern asked, “so that, as has been said before, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger?”

Researchers are planning further, to study how albumin, myoglobin and salivary alpha-amylase protect against PLPs and their possible innate defenses against the chemicals. Kern also plans an alternative study, to find how these natural defenses were compromised in some people causing cancers or other illnesses. Finding of the research also speculates that a morning cup of coffee might be less harmful if enjoyed with a protective myoglobin from a meat (chicken, bacon, etc…). Also eating smoked meat might be less toxic if they are enough to make you salivate. But researchers say that these ideas are just speculation.


 1) Scott E. Kern, M. Zulfiquer Hossain, Kalpesh Patel, , 2014. Salivary α-amylase, serum albumin, and myoglobin protect against DNA-damaging activities of ingested dietary agents in vitro. Food and Chemical Toxicology, Volume 70, Pages 114–119.

 2) 2014. Compounds in Saliva and Common Body Proteins May Fend Off DNA-Damaging Chemicals in Tea, Coffee and Liquid Smoke.[Accessed 23 June 14].





Hormone Disruptors !!!

ImagePic: Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) courtsey,

From fishes to humans, effects of hormone disrupting pollutants has be recognized everywhere. A new research has shed light into effect of hormone disrupting pollutants in birds along the urban rivers of South Wales. An article published in the Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry journal revealed that the chicks of the Eurasian Dipper, a known river bird, found in upland stream, where found to be underweight as compared to their rural counterparts. These birds which are nesting near urban rivers were found to have altered levels of hormones, resulting in hatching of fewer female chicks as compared to the birds nesting near the rural rivers. This could have a direct impact on the population’s breeding and survival.

Researchers from Cardiff University along with University of Saskatchewan and Exeter and Natural Envrionment Research Council, state that urban contaminants such as PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) and PBDR a flame retardant chemicals (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) are the key pollutants. The birds acquire them through their food. A strong correlation between these contaminants and depressed thyroid hormone levels in chicks has been found; one of these hormones where of 43% lower in chicks found around urban rivers as compared to that of rural rivers.

ImageTable: Example of EDC’s hormone targets, and aquatic receptors (2)

Professor Steve Ormerod(1) stated: “Our findings are important in showing that pollutants are still a source of concern for the wildlife along Britain’s urban rivers despite very major recovery from the gross pollution problems of the past. Wild birds, such as dippers, are very important indicators of environmental well-being and food-web contamination, and we need to know if populations, other species – or even people – are also at risk”. Professor Steve Ormerod from Cardiff University School of Biosciences, has spent 35 years investigating rivers.

Study showed that urban dippers found along the heavily polluted rivers of South Wales, are exposed to complex mix of chemical contaminants, of which PCB and PBDE are dominant. Endocrine system is important and sensitive, since it controls thyroid and other hormones, alteration in thyroid hormone levels is an important predictor in pollution induced development effects. The effects of altered levels of thyroid hormone on birds are diverse. The primary effects include impaired growth; cognitive dysfunction; compromised immune function; changes in motor activity; and behavioural abnormalities which can persist into adulthood.

Dippers being top predators are important monitors for river pollution, helping in the assessment of urban contaminants which are influencing wildlife. Latest findings have led scientist to examine the effects of dippers sex ratio and thyroid hormone levels, as a consequence at an individual level, which could as a result alter the population dynamics. Locating the exact source of the pollution is one of the many solutions being considered.

RSPB’s Futurescape Officer John Clark said: “The return of Dippers to urban rivers is a fantastic outcome of pollution reduction in the UK. However, this study highlights the importance of birds as an indicator that some pollutants still persist in our rivers at harmful levels. We need to work in partnership with water companies, regulators, statutory agencies and communities at a catchment scale to address those practices that continue to introduce damaging chemicals to our rivers. The RSPB’s Futurescapes conservation work programme is doing exactly that – tackling environmental challenges at a truly large, landscape-scale, level.”

Problem with thyroid disruptors is emerging everywhere around the world. A joint effort is required in tackling these pollutants which throw environment off balance. WHO in their annual report on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) state: The identification of chemicals with endocrine-disrupting potential, among all of the chemicals used and released worldwide, is a major challenge and it is likely that we are currently assessing only the tip of the iceberg. Adding greatly to the complexity of the issue, and to the number of chemicals in our environment, are the unknown or unintended byproducts that are formed during chemical manufacturing and combustion processes and via environmental transformations. In addition, many EDC sources are unknown because a large number of products, materials and goods, as well as waste products and e-waste, lack declarations indicating their chemical constituents (3)




1) Morrissey, C. A., Stanton, D. W.G., Tyler, C. R., Pereira, M. G., Newton, J., Durance, I. and Ormerod, S. J. (2014), Developmental impairment in eurasian dipper nestlings exposed to urban stream pollutants. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 33: 1315–1323. doi: 10.1002/etc.2555

2) Doris S V. 2011. Background: Endocrine Disruption. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 20 June 14].

3) Europe, W.H.O, 2014. Identification of risks from exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals at the country level. 2nd ed. Europe: WHO Regional Office for Europe.