The US Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid guidelines introduced a near doubling of the dietary recommendations for vegetables including dry beans—an important food staple in many traditional diets that can improve public health and nutrition. Populations with high legume (peas, beans, lentils) consumption have a low risk of cancer and chronic degenerative diseases. Common beans ( Phaseolus vulgaris L.) are known as a rich, reliable source of non-digested compounds like fiber, phenolics, peptides and phytochemicals that are associated with health benefits. Emerging evidence indicates that common bean consumption is associated with reduced cancer risk in human populations, inhibiting carcinogenesis in animal models and inducing cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in cell cultures. Fiber may reduce the risk of premature death from all causes, whereas the whole non-digestible fraction from common beans exhibits anti-proliferative activity and induces apoptosis in vitro and in vivo colon cancer. The mechanisms responsible for this apparently protective role may include gene-nutrient interactions and modulation of proteins’ expression. This review investigates the potential health benefits and bioactivity of beans on tumor inhibition, highlighting studies involving functional compounds, mainly non-digestible fractions that modulate genes and proteins, thereby, unraveling their preventive role against the development of cancer.
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