Mississippi College

Kale Research Drives Mississippi College Graduate Student

May 9, 2014

Spending more than a year studying the health benefits of kale, Mississippi College graduate student Bilal Qizilbash will keep pressing ahead with his research.

His initial scientific findings lead him to conclude that juiced curly kale kills melanoma cancer cells in culture.

Working on his theory in labs on the Clinton campus for well over 60 hours per week, Qizilbash recently presented the essentials of his research to health professionals at the Global Health and Innovation Conference taking place on the campus of Yale University. And he gave a repeat performance before curious MC students, faculty and staff at the Christian university’s medical sciences building lecture hall in late April.

That’s pretty heady stuff for the enterprising Mississippi College biomedical sciences student. Growing up in Queens, New York, he’s been curious about the scientific world since he was a young boy. As a child, Bilal broke open a TV remote to see what was in it and how it worked.

Today, he is seeking to open doors to fight cancer with his research on the Clinton campus. Kale tastes bitter, pretty much like eating grass, but Bilal will keep his studies going full tilt to see what potential there is to combat breast cancer and colon cancer.

Breast cancer alone claimed the lives of nearly 40,000 American women in 2013, reports the American Cancer Society. In addition, there were a projected 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer for women in the USA last year. In 2014, health officials predicted 136,830 cases of colorectal cancer in America, with 50,310 people expected to die from the disease.

Those staggering statistics cause researchers like Qizilbash to stay focused on ways to reduce cancer deaths. Kale has potential.

“I thoroughly enjoy kale,” he tells his Mississippi College audience before handing out free samples following his 30-minute lecture. “Kale is incredibly nutritious.”

Facts back him up. A September 24, 2012 story in “The Washington Post” by reporter Carolyn Butler says kale contains 45 different flavonoids. Kale has a high concentration of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. New lab studies found that kale extract inhibits the production of existing colon cancer cells, the story said.

While kale is bitter to the taste buds, the vegetable “may protect against cancer, reduce cholesterol and improve health,” the “Washington Post” article said.

Bilal’s research shows that cooked kale doesn’t contain the same benefits as raw kale. Freezing and thawing kale keeps the vegetable potent, he noted. But fresh kale is always best. His findings about kale are significant for a number of reasons.

Kale is highly accessible and affordable, Bilal says. His research studies are reported on May 6 in the New York-based “Real Responsible Eating & Living.” Significantly, kale is immediately available to people of all income levels, rich and poor, the Mississippi College researcher stated.

Bilal, whose father is from Pakistan and mother was born in the United States, has good reason to search for solutions to combat cancer.

“I am perpetually curious and always seeking to improve my life and potentially the life of others around me,” Qizilbash says. “This is why I love all of my various teachers and mentors. Each one has contributed in different ways to my life and my knowledge base which I utilize as different tools for different applications.”

He’s been working closely with MC biology professor Dr. Elizabeth Brandon as their research plows forward.

With kale serving as the centerpiece, “We’re looking at melanoma and factors in obesity including hormone changes,” Brandon said.

While kale doesn’t taste terrific, she’s got a number of ways to squeeze it into her diet. Dr. Brandon eats kale leaves in her salad.

While they generally aren’t crazy about the taste of kale, MC students gave Bilal high marks for his hard work as a young researcher.

“It’s really interesting,” says MC biology major Aaron Blocker, 22, of Florence. “It seems so simple. You would think it is a lot more complicated.”

A pre-medical graduate student, Blair Stevens, 23, of Baton Rouge, La., finds the research to be fascinating. With a grandmother recently diagnosed with breast cancer, “I hope it leads to a break-through.”

To contact Bilal Qizilbash, email him at bmqizilbash@mc.edu A summary of his research can be found at http://responsibleeatingandliving.com/?p=14268.

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