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Grow Purple Corn and Join the Green Economy

by Barbara Minton
See all TBYIL articles by Barbara Minton

(The Best Years in Life) Purple corn is turning out to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet. It is loaded with phenolics and anthocyanin, and has an antioxidant rating higher than blueberries. The health benefits of purple corn are pervasive in the body, and it has a normalizing effect on many bodily systems. It can even shrink cancerous tumors. As the healing value of purple corn becomes apparent, researchers have jumped in to document its many benefits, and supplement companies have rolled out purple corn extracts. The only thing missing from all this is someone to put purple corn in the produce section of the local grocery stores.

Why you might want to grow purple corn

The world is in a time of rapid change. People have had enough of the disease establishment and are moving away from dependence on chemicals and toward green living and green health care. This dawning new age will be one of personal empowerment in which more of us are willing to accept responsibility for ourselves including our health status. Demand for foods and products that can enhance and preserve health as well as help bring people back from disease has never been more brisk. As we turn our backs on the status seeking of mindless accumulation, we are becoming more mindful of the need to spend energy and resources in a way that will benefit us as individuals and collectively.

Many areas of this newly emerging trend are already being mined. Almost weekly, new health promoting products show up on store shelves. The opportunities that remain now are at the front end of this chain, where people produce the commodities that will be needed to support the increasing demand for products. Yet this is also a time of economic retrenchment, so what will work best for many people will be those enterprises with low barriers to entry.

We are breaking from corporate ties and realizing we have to strike out on our own, and at the same time we are looking again to nature to guide us. It is a perfect convergence. What better way to stake a claim on life than to plant seeds in the ground and produce something of such great benefit?

Purple corn has what it takes to ward off aging and disease

Purple corn, also known as Zea mays, is a variety of sweet corn. By some quirk of fate, purple corn has one of the most deep, vibrant purple colorations in the plant kingdom. In the edible plant world, bright vivid color is a tip off that nature has created this plant to be enticing to people. Like the bright orange of carrots and the vibrant red of tomatoes, purple corn is purple to capture our interest.

The intense color in purple corn is the result of anthocyanins, water-soluble blue plant pigment. Anthocyanins are responsible for the spectrum of color in the plant world that ranges from purple to red. They belong to the larger class of phytochemicals known as flavonoids that are found in many food plants. This purple color has been prized by the people of the Peruvian Andes who use purple corn for food and beverage coloring, a practice now becoming popular in other parts of the world. The Peruvians also make a fermented drink from purple corn kernels, called chica morada, which is said to lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation.

Purple corn is rich in antioxidants, containing even more than the huge amount recently discovered in yellow corn.  Antioxidants are compounds that neutralize the free radicals so responsible for the aging process. The high phenolic content of purple corn means it is well equipped to provide safety against degenerative diseases. Purple corn is a natural double play.

Purple corn tops blueberries

The mean anthocyanin content of whole, fresh purple corn from Peru was 16.4 mg/g, compared to the 1.3 to 3.8 mg/g range found in blueberries according to research from the Horticulture Department of Texas A&M University. Its antioxidant capacity and anti-radical action are more than twice that measured in blueberries, making purple corn the highest rated vegetable or fruit in antioxidant status.  

This is an important finding for anyone contemplating growing purple corn. Blueberries sell at premium prices due to the high demand for their antioxidant benefits among the health conscious.

Cyanidin 3-glucoside (C3G) is the most abundant anthocyanin found in purple corn. Several studies have documented its power, including one that compared C3G to 13 other anthocyanins using oxygen radical absorption capacity (ORAC) as its measure. The ORAC rating of C3C was 3.5 times that of Trolox, a synthetic and extremely potent antioxidant analogue of vitamin E.

Purple corn stops all cancer growth and kills 20% of cancer cells in study

In a recent study, scientists from Ohio State University investigated the action of anthocyanins against cancer. They compared the chemoprotective properties of anthocyanin extracts from purple corn, aronia berry, bilberry, purple carrot, grape, radish, and elderberry for their ability to inhibit colon cancer cell proliferation.

The researchers found that the amount of anthocyanin extract needed to reduce cancer cell growth by 50 percent varied among the plants tested. Extract derived from purple corn was the most potent, taking only 14 micrograms of C3G to reduce cancer cell growth by half. Extracts from aronia berry and bilberry were also fairly potent, though not as potent as the purple corn extract.

In follow-up work, these researchers found that anthocyanins from red radish and black carrots slowed the growth of cancer cells anywhere from 50 to 80 percent. However, anthocyanins from purple corn and aronia berries not only completely stopped the growth of cancer cells, but also killed about 21 percent of cancer cells without having any effect on healthy cells.

Purple corn color suppresses breast cancer resulting from gene damage

In another recent study completed in Japan where most of the research on purple corn is being done, scientists examined the influence of dietary purple corn color (PCC) extracted from purple corn seeds on induced mammary cancer in genetically damaged rats. They found that PCC significantly inhibited the cancer growth by inhibiting cell viability and inducing appropriate cell death in the mammary tumor cells. The researchers concluded that C3G could act as a chemopreventive and also as a chemotherapeutic agent for cancers involving mutations in ras genes. Mutations in ras stimulate cell division and proliferation, and facilitate development of various cancers.


Purple corn color may be effective in preventing liver cancer

Other scientists in Japan found that the serum of rats treated with PCC provided evidence of significant antioxidant protection. Micro array analyses showed PCC to induce RNA expression. They concluded that PCC may be effective as a chemopreventative agent against liver pre-neoplastic lesion development.

Hypertension and cholesterol are lowered by blue corn

Japanese scientists also investigated the effects of continuous administration of color from purple corn, purple sweet potato, and red radish on spontaneously hypertensive rats. The animals were fed with diets containing 1% of purple corn, purple sweet potato or radish color. They found that the body weight and daily food intake of administered rats were not different from those in the control group, and the blood pressure and heart rate of the hypertensive rats that were administered each color decreased compared to the control group. These results suggest that anthocyanins have strong anti-hypertensive effects.

Other Japanese researchers performed an oral toxicity study of PCC with groups of rats fed the agent at dietary levels of 0%, 0.5%, 1.5%, and 5% for 90 days. No mortalities occurred during the treatment period, and there were no treatment-related changes in body weight, ophthalmology, hematology, organ weight, or histopathology. An unexpected finding was that on clinical chemistry analysis, total cholesterol, phospholipids, and triglycerides were significantly lowered in both female and male rats. The no-observed-adverse-effects-level (NOAEL) for PCC was judged to be 5% in the diet for both sexes.

Anthocyanins from purple corn are stable when heated

Researchers in China evaluated the thermal stability of purple corn. Total anthocyanin content and total phenolic content were identified, and individual anthocyanins were determined. Seven main compounds were identified.

After analysis, the researchers concluded that the evaluated purple corn hybrids are a natural source of anthocyanins that remain stable over a wide range of temperatures and time.

This finding means blue corn can be used in many ways that people now use yellow corn. It can be cooked or roasted without losing its potency. Popped blue corn will surely become a favorite!

The husks and cobs may be the best part

In a study from South Korea, the goal was to develop high-anthocyanin corn to enhance economic efficiency of anthocyanin production for various uses including the manufacturing of anthocyanin supplements. The researchers determined and compared anthocyanin content from different parts of purple corn in various breeding lines. Results revealed that purple corn produced the anthocyanin pigment throughout the plant. It was found in especially high levels in the husk and cob regions. Anthocyanin levels of husks ranged from 17.3% to 18.9% of dry weight, roughly 10 times more than found in the kernel.

The bottom line here is that parts of the traditional corn plant commonly thrown away have tremendous value if they come from purple corn plants. The higher levels of anthocyanins in the husks and cobs make their parts ideal for supplement manufacturers.

See also:

Teaching Children Gardening Boosts Their Development and Health

For more information:

About the author:

Barbara is a school psychologist and the author of Dividend Capture, a book on personal finance. She is a breast cancer survivor using bioidentical hormone therapy, and a passionate advocate of natural health with hundreds of articles on many aspects of health and wellness. She is the editor and publisher of AlignLife's Health Secrets Newsletter.

See other articles by the Barbara Minton here:

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