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Dr. Oz’s “Cancer Detective” Makes a Case for Wild

Dr. Oz has enlisted one of the most deductive minds in plant nutrition research to help us understand the compelling potential of wild plants in cancer prevention. For us, this Sherlock Holmes of health has a very familiar name.

That’s because we spoke with Dr. Mary Ann Lila about the fascinating nutritional research taking place at the Plants for Human Health Institute at North Carolina State University where she is the Director, back in September. She talked to Wild About Health for a two-part series about her work in shifting the global perception of plant crops and their potential, as well as her research involving wild blueberries, including mapping the blueberry genome and its fascinating role in Parkinson’s prevention.


On a recent show, Dr. Oz referred to Lila as a “cancer detective” because she is responsible for some major breakthroughs in nutritional health, particularly in the field of cancer prevention. At the Institute, she and her team are using the most up-to-date technology to understand the most old-fashioned remedies: plants. Her task is understanding how and to what extent they protect human health.

Lila performs research by testing promising plants, and uses that research in conjunction with knowledge gathered from places like Mexico, New Zealand, Equador and Bostwana. In these countries, she and her team tap native elders so they can better understand how berries are collected and used. Combined with research, this information helps them to scientifically understand something we have long intuitively understood about fruit and its medicinal properties.

Lila’s focus is on deep pigment berries. They hold the key to powerful anti-cancer nutrients. Today, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and Lila’s detective work entails cracking the case of how berries could lead to stopping cancer in its tracks.

You can find out more about the wild berry mystique at DoctorOz.com and how this translates into protection for our own bodies.

Something Wild

As part of Dr. Oz’s Cancer Prevention series, Lila discusses the compelling cycle of how plants grown in harsh environments naturally have health benefits that are the result of a complex system engaged to defend themselves. Wild blueberries, for example, grow only in Maine and Canada, enduring harsh winters on the coast, and they are prime examples of the wild mystique: wild blueberries are exposed to constant sunlight in the summer, they grow in tough coastal and rocky terrain, and they endure rollicking seasonal shifts.

This otherwise unprotected plant, Lila explains, manufactures its own natural protection. It helps itself endure environmental stress and promote its own survival in its aim to live another season. The wild blueberry’s skin has high concentrations of sun protection; its tough outer tissue wards off cold temperature and salt stress; it naturally discourages predatory insects and invasive microbes; and its bright colors help attract pollinating insects, helping to disperse their seeds. To achieve all this, the plant draws on its own natural components to produce powerful phytochemicals that protect and preserve it and allow it to prosper.

“Stressed for Success”

For human life forms, the benefits from these phytochemicals can’t be overstated. It’s too good to be true that the protection plants use for their own survival and propagation can be used to such enormous effect – aptly stated as medicinal effect – for us. As Lila terms it, these plants are “stressed for success”. The “stress” they endure triggers them to devote their natural resources to accumulating these protective phytochemicals for their benefit and ultimately ours. The anti-inflammatory benefit for heart and blood vessels that phytochemicals provide is medicine we as a population need more than ever as we struggle against increasingly prevalent and deadly diseases associated with these symptoms.

Understanding the difference between wild and cultivated can bring wild’s particular heath advantages into stark relief. Wild blueberries are native to North America and they have little intervention from growers, which allows their natural defenses thrive. In contrast, the berries’ cultivated counterparts are grown for other strengths. That means they have actually been selected against some of the health-protective phytochemicals, Lila explains. And, of course, cultivated plants don’t have the stressors of wild, so they simply don’t produce the protective benefits. Making sure we are eating wild – those native plants indigenous to Maine and parts of Canada – is the key to the most powerful protection against cancer.

In addition to cancer prevention, wild provides plenty of other advantages.

The Wild Advantages: 

  • Superb antioxidant capacity. Wild Blueberries have the highest antioxidant capacity per serving, compared with more than 20 other fruits.
  • Ability to lower blood glucose levels for diabetics.
  • Improved motor skills.
  • Reversal of short-term memory loss associated with the human aging process.
  • Protection for the heart and help in preventing stroke.
  • Protection against the effects of aging including its effects on vision and skin.
  • Promising potential in the prevention of metabolic syndrome.

Learn more about wild at DoctorOz.com, at get recipe suggestions to help you get in touch with your wild side!

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