Tree nuts are rich in polar (phenolic compounds) and non-polar (tocols) antioxidants, with recognized effects in the prevention of diseases such as cancer. These biomolecules possess antiproliferative activity on cancer cells; however, the combined effect of both types of compounds has been scarcely studied, and this approach could give valuable information on the real anticancer potential of tree nuts. In the present study, the antiproliferative activity of pure tocols and phenolic compounds, tocol-and phenolic-rich extracts (TRE and PRE, respectively) from tree nuts and the extracts combinations, was evaluated in four cancer (HeLa, MCF7, PC3, A549) and one control (ARPE) cell lines. The most sensible cell lines were HeLa and MCF7. TRE and PRE from nuts were chemically characterized; γ and δ tocopherols, total tocols, total tocopherols and total phenolic compounds were negatively correlated with cell viability in MCF7 cells. In HeLa cells, only δ and total tocopherols were negatively correlated with cell viability. TRE and PRE had a low effect in reducing cell viability of the cancer cell lines, the most effective extracts were those of emory oak acorn (EOA), pecan nut (PEC) and walnut (WAL), and these were further studied for their pharmacological interactions, using the combination index and the isobologram methods. Combinations of both extracts showed a synergistic and strongly synergistic behavior in the three nuts (EOA, PEC and WAL), with combination indexes between 0.12 and 0.55. These results highlight the need to understand the interactions among components found in complex natural extracts or food products in order to fully understand their bioactivities.
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