Nov 022009
Authors: David Martinez

When researchers reveal new natural cures for cancer, some picture scientists rummaging the rain forest looking for rare herbs and plants.

But, Meghan Mensack, a post-doctorate fellow of horticulture and landscape architecture at CSU, has been working with the cancer-fighting properties of a food anyone can find by rummaging through the local supermarket: dry beans.

Dry beans such as pinto, kidney and navy beans are cheap and have properties that fight the spread of cancer cells in the body, she said. Despite what their name suggests, dry beans are simply a class of bean and maintain their cancer-fighting characteristics after they have been boiled or baked.

Mensack spoke about which beans prevent the spread of cancer and why some beans work better than others in front of two-dozen grad students and scientists at the Animal Cancer Center on Monday.

“I think it’s really cool that we’re looking at things that are so commonplace,” Mensack said. “The reason we’re looking at (dry beans) is because they’re a big calorie source in the world.”

Working under Henry Thompson, a horticulture and landscape architecture professor at CSU, Mensack studied these beans using metabolomics —- the study of small -molecules and metabolite profiles.

Mensack and Thompson are currently researching what molecule groups make some beans more effectively prevent cancer spread than others. Their research found that white kidney beans have the most cancer-fighting properties while navy beans had the least.

Mensack said that color also had no affect on nutritional value.

“Some nutritionists say to ‘eat your colors.’ That doesn’t seem to be the case here.”

White kidney beans have greater effects on cancer cells than navy beans despite being the same color, while more colorful beans have mediocre effects on cancer cells.

Research also found that more beans in a person’s diet leads to greater abilities to fight the spread of cancer. Lab specimens with cancer fed a 60 percent bean diet experienced significantly less cancer spread compared to the control group, although Mensack joked that people are “never going to eat that many beans.”

The lab specimens were fed pellets with different amounts of freeze-dried cooked beans with the same concentrations of other nutrients.

With future research, Mensack said she hopes to improve the disease prevention characteristics of crops.

Staff writer David Martinez can be reached at

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