The problem with "superfood" products is that the vast majority of them are not good for your health at all. This does not mean that some foods are not healthier than others. Fruit and vegetables are definitely better than potato chips and cola. But the claim that certain foods are the elixir for all our ailments and will make us beautiful and healthy for many years is just commercial gibberish.
With that in mind, it's still worth researching how food affects our health. Research in this area allows us to learn about our metabolism and physiology, which can tell us more about the disease and how to prevent it.
Crocetin: The anti-cancer component of saffron
New research by a team of scientists in Italy suggests that saffron - a spice used in some Asian, Indian and Mediterranean dishes - may play an important role in the fight against cancer. Specifically, they studied a spice ingredient called crocetin, which they synthesized in their lab.
The team investigated that crocetin could block the proliferation of two types of human cancer cells (cervical cancer and lung cancer) in a test tube, but it did not inhibit the growth of normal lung cells.
The mechanism of action appears to involve inhibition of an enzyme that is particularly active in cancer cells. By their nature, cancer cells have a high energy and nutrient requirement. To meet this need, cancer cells mimic the metabolic process our body uses when oxygen supply is low.
So you think saffron counts as a "Superfood"?
NO. Many different chemicals kill cancer in a test tube. Just because a compound shows promising results in the lab doesn't mean it will have any measurable effect on the human body. Indeed, there is quite a bit of evidence - including plausible biological mechanisms - that suggests that antioxidants should kill cancer cells. However, antioxidants have failed clinical trials.
So we still have a long way to go before saffron can be considered more than an expensive spice. The next step would be to test saffron in clinical trials to see if people who take it have any noticeable health benefits. Additionally, it needs to be determined whether there is any good reason for people to use saffron (or crocetin) as opposed to a more effective synthetic drug.
Apart from this, it is still worth adding saffron to meals, even if it has no beneficial effect on our health, at least it tastes great. I often use saffron when planning diets for my patients.