Anti Cancer Foods: Stay Fit for Life by Eating Cancer Fighting Vegetables

February 10th, 2009
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Anti Cancer Foods: Stay Fit for Life by Eating Cancer Fighting Vegetables

To Fight Cancer, Check Your Vegetable Choices
Credit to Tufts:

Not only aren’t Americans eating enough vegetables, but when it comes to combating cancer we’re eating the wrong ones. Researchers who tested extracts from 34 different vegetables against eight types of tumor cells report that the least popular vegetables in the US diet—such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts—pack the greatest anti-cancer potential. The veggies we prefer—potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes and carrots, which together account for about 60% of US adults’ vegetable consumption—may have their virtues, but prove less effective in cancer protection.

Writing in the journal Food Chemistry, Dominique Boivin from Quebec University and colleagues explained, “Epidemiological studies have consistently linked abundant consumption of fruits and vegetables to a reduction of the risk of developing several types of cancer. In most cases, however, the identification of specific fruits and vegetables that are responsible for these effects is still lacking.

”So the researchers put the produce aisle to the test in the lab. Extracts from cruciferous vegetables, a group that includes broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, significantly inhibited the growth of all the types of tumor cells (stomach, lung, breast, kidney, skin, pancreas, prostate and brain). Also effective were extracts from vegetables in the botanical genus Allium, which includes garlic, onions, leeks and shallots. But these cancer-fighting vegetables make up only a “minuscule” part of the typical diet, the researchers noted.

The more popular potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes and carrots generally struck out in testing against the tumor cells. The anti-cancer properties of vegetables also seemed to be independent of their antioxidant content, suggesting that other chemical compounds were at work.

Indeed, the anti-cancer effects of cruciferous vegetables are no surprise. Previous research has found that broccoli and its botanical kin are high in compounds called glucosinates, which the body transforms into anti-carcinogens called isothiocynates. The best-known isothiocynate is sulforaphane, which comes from broccoli. Cruciferous vegetables may also help prevent hormone-responsive tumors, such as breast, prostate and ovarian cancers, via another naturally occurring compound, indole-3-carbinol (I3C).

Research on cancer-fighting properties of Allium vegetables is less extensive, but a 2006 Italian study found that consumption of onions and especially garlic was associated with a reduced risk of several types of cancer. Like cruciferous vegetables, garlic and related plants contain sulfur compounds thought to have anti-tumor properties.

“Since the formation of tumors is a random event that occurs in a significant percentage of the adult population,” Boivin concluded, “the increased consumption of these vegetables with high anticancer properties could play a… role in preventing these tumors from reaching a clinical stage and thus reduce the incidence of several types of cancers.”

TO LEARN MORE, SEE: Food Chemistry, Jan. 15, 2009; abstract; Special Report: “Broccoli and Beyond!,” June 2008 Healthletter.

JOEY: “It’s important to note – it’s much easier to look and feel great when you eat foods that are designed, by nature, to protect and strengthen your body – and your life.”

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