Fucose plays an important role in cancer. One of the biomarkers in stomach (gastric) cancer, for instance, is the sugar fucose. Researchers have stated, “Core-fucosylation is down regulated in gastric cancer. Upregulation of core-fucosylation could inhibit proliferation of the human gastric cancer cells.”⁸ Fucosylation is glycosylation where fucose is the sugar being added to glycoproteins. Translated this means that adding fucose in the body can slow or stop the development of stomach cancer.
Fucoidans are abundant in seaweed and algae. Fucoidans are sulphated glycans which means fucose is the main component but there are additional sulphur-based compounds too. The sugar fucose induces secretion of tumor necrosis factor (TNF-α) which is an extremely important cancer fighting agent.⁹ Fucose plays an important role in other cancers besides stomach cancer. Several types of fucosylated glyco-biomarkers are linked to colon, liver, lung, and pancreatic cancers. Researchers state that fucose shows great promise for cancer diagnosis and therapy.
In the gut, Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron (B.theta) produces at least 8 enzymes with multiple fucosidases. These fucose enzymes cleave or cut fucose from the food we eat. This results in high levels of fucose being available in the human intestine. This is vital for maintaining optimal levels of good versus bad bacteria in the gut. Bacteria sense the amount of fucose in the gut and use this determination to adjust the proper balance between competing bacteria. This ensures overall gut health. Good gut health depends on the sugar fucose.
Fucoidans also stimulate adult hematopoietic stem cell formation. These are the parent stem cells of our immune system. They are blank cells that can become any type of blood or immune system cell needed in the body. A study was conducted with healthy adult volunteers who ingested 3 grams per day of Undaria fucoidans (seaweed containing fucose) for 12 days and researchers saw a significant increase in the number of stem cells in the blood. As we age, the production of adult stem cells decreases. But, adding fucose to their diet reversed this downward trend and stimulated the production of healthy new cells capable of becoming any cell. The ramifications for immune system support and anti-aging are enormous because these new adult stem cells can replace any damaged cell in the body. For those undergoing standard cancer treatments like radiation or chemo, the benefits could be life sustaining for this same reason.
The foods we can find fucose in are: seaweed (kelp and wakame).
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