The study found that the starch in green bananas can reduce the risk of some types of cancer by more than 60%.

If you like a little green banana, you may get some unexpected health benefits.

A 20-year study found that the starch in unripe bananas can reduce the risk of some types of cancer by more than 60 percent.

Besides bananas, this type of starch is also found in oats, cereals, pasta, rice, peas, and beans.

The study was led by experts at the Universities of Newcastle and Leeds Published in the journal Cancer Prevention ResearchIt could have important implications for reducing cancers in the upper gut, which doctors say can be difficult to detect and diagnose.

During the study period, participants took a dose of this starch — called resistant starch — equal to that you’d get from eating an overly unripe banana, still slightly green.

About 1,000 patients with Lynch syndrome — a genetic disorder that increases the risk of cancer, particularly in the large intestine and rectum — took the dose for an average of two years.

The study revealed that although starch did not affect cancers in the intestines, it did reduce the incidence of cancers in other parts of the body by more than half.

It had a special effect on cancers of the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract, including those of the esophagus, stomach, bile ducts, pancreas, and duodenum.

The effect of taking the supplement appeared 10 years after patients stopped taking it.

“We found that resistant starch reduced a range of cancers by more than 60 percent. The effect was most pronounced in the upper gut,” John Mathers, professor of human nutrition at Newcastle University, He said in a statement.

“The dose used in the experiment is equivalent to eating a banana a day: before it becomes too ripe and soft, the starch in the banana resists decomposition and reaches the intestines where it can alter the type of bacteria that live there.”

He added that resistant starch can be taken as a powdered supplement and is found naturally in peas, beans, oats and other starchy foods.

Resistant starch feeds good gut bacteria

Resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that, unlike most carbohydrates, is not digested in the small intestine.

Instead, it ferments in the large intestine, feeding healthy gut bacteria.

Professor Mathers said he and his colleagues believe resistant starch may reduce the development of cancer by reducing the amount of bile acids in the gut that are known to damage DNA and eventually cause cancer. But he cautioned that more studies would be needed to verify this.

Professor Tim Bishop, Leeds Medical School, said: “The results are exciting but the magnitude of the protective effect in the upper GI tract was unexpected, so further research is needed to replicate these findings.”

Previous research published as part of the same trial revealed that aspirin reduced the risk of colon cancer by 50 percent.

Long-term study shows ‘clear benefits’

Between 1999 and 2005, nearly 1,000 study participants started taking either resistant starch in powdered form, or a placebo, every day for two years.

At the end of the treatment phase, there was no overall difference in cancer incidence between those who ate resistant starch and those who did not. However, the research team expected that any protective effect would take longer to develop and designed the study for further follow-up.

In the follow-up period, there were only five new cases of upper gastrointestinal cancers among the 463 participants who took the resistant starch, compared with 21 of the 455 who took the placebo.

Professor Sir John Byrne, from the University of Newcastle and the NHS Foundation Trust for Newcastle Hospitals, who co-managed the trial, said.

“Patients with Lynch syndrome are at high risk because they are more likely to develop cancer, so finding that aspirin can cut the risk of colon cancers and resistant starch to other cancers in half.”

He noted that based on this experience, the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) now recommends aspirin for people at high genetic risk of developing cancer.

He said, “The benefits are clear – aspirin and resistant starch.”

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