Kimchi: Cancer's Cancer (Part 4)
So we're down to our final post in the 'Did you know how good Kimchi was for you? Did you really?' series. I know there's been about a million of them, but we've saved the best for last.
Let's recap what we know: Kimchi helps you fight viruses, obesity and ageing. You would think that would be enough for Koreans but no, they invented something that fights cancer as well.
Yes, cancer, the thing we're still having a heck of a time dealing with in 2018, about 50 years after President Nixon declared war on it (Yes this did happen - google it!)
And how do we know this, you might ask?
To answer this question, who would we turn to but good 'ol Professor Park Kunyoung of Pusan University.
After she was done with anti-ageing and anti-obesity experiments, I'm guessing she took a quick stroll around the campus, maybe a sly nokcha at the cafeteria, and then hit the lab around 1.15pm.
What's that, you want to get back to the subject of the article? You don't appreciate the narrative super-structure?
Okay, but my groundless speculations about the daily routines of academics not in my direct acquaintance are always here and ready, if you need them. Just reach out.
So, Professor Park. In the lab. This time she took a group of mice with cancer cell transplants, and injected them with MSF extract of Kimchi.
By the way, if you want to sound intelligent, say methanol soluble fraction instead of MSF. I've no idea what it means, but neither, I would wager, does the person you are trying to impress.
Anyway, after about a month, Professor Park checked in on the mice.
It turned out that the ones who were fed on a normal diet had an average tumor weight of 4.3 grams.
The group that were fed with Kimchi extract had an average tumor weight of 2.0 grams.
What does this mean? It shows that Kimchi may help suppress the growth of a tumor by more than 50%. Not a bad batting average.
And it gets better: in other experiments, the same Kimchi extract slowed the mutation process in carcinogenic substances 'in vitro' as well - that's human cancer, not just animal cancer, in other words.
So whether it's suppressing tumor growth, or stopping tumors appearing in the first place, Kimchi has been shown in many other experiments to be a pretty decent bet.
And of course, these properties are thanks to the ingredients. Specifically, the *combined medicinal value* of the individual ingredients.
I like to think of it as a Confucian microcosm, with every part of society performing its due function, creating a blissful harmony of disparate but complementary forces. And yes I made that up but it might be true, you never know.
The main ingredient (as we mentioned before) is often cabbage, but Kimchi also comes in other forms as well, including radish, garlic stalks, eggplant, and mustard leaf, and a ton of others.
The supporting cast of ingredients typically involve minced ginger, garlic, chili pepper powder, and pickled seafood. They add flavor but also beef up - which is completely the wrong turn of phrase for a vegetarian dish but anyhoo - the overall nutritional quotient of the meal.
You have to wonder how this came about. I mean, who thinks to themselves: "You know what this radish needs - minced ginger. And obvs some pickled seafood." Apparently kick-ass Korean food inventors, and not me.
Btdubs, Professor Park is not the only one researching the topic. Professor Chang Ja-jun of Seoul National University (S.N.U. BABY!!!!!) went one step further by analyzing the contributions of each of the main ingredients.
She found out that the core ingredients (cabbage, chili pepper, garlic) have slightly different anti-cancer properties, in and of themselves.
Capsaicin (which gives a chili pepper its spicy taste) is known to be particularly good at suppressing lung cancer.
Indole-3-carbinol (found in cabbage), is also known to suppress stomach cancer.
Tip of the top, though, is Allicin (contained in the garlic) which is known to suppress liver cancer, stomach cancer, bladder cancer, and thyroid cancer.
Did you know that the U.S. National Cancer Institute chose garlic as the number one anti-cancer ingredient out of a selection of 40 different foods? Well they did.
Either way, get me some of that garlic.
That brings us to the end of this series of posts about Korean food and its health benefits.
Korean food, in my view, is special in that it is 1) reeeeeally delicious and 2) craaaaazily good for you.
There are some things that are good for you and delicious, but the reeeeeally delicious stuff tends to be in the not-so-good-for-you quadrant. And vice versa.
This is not such a secret anymore.
A while back, it wasn't that common to see Korean food outside of Korean restaurants, but now it's popping up everywhere. There was no massive craze for Korean food that blew up and subsequently died down - but slowly, surely, it's becoming as common apart of our daily lives as Japanese, Chinese or Thai.
Another way in which Korea is benefiting the world. Silently, and almost shyly, as usual.