Consumption of onions and garlic in daily diet helps to reduce the risk of several types of cancer.
Researchers from the Mario Negri Institute of Pharmacologic Research in Milan, Italy analysed eight studies from Italy and Switzerland and found that older adults with the highest onion and garlic intakes had the lowest risks of a number of cancers including colon, ovarian and throat cancers. Each study compared healthy older adults to patients with a particular form of cancer, asking participants for detailed information on their diets, physical activity and other lifestyle habits. However, it is not certain that onions and garlic have a direct effect on cancer risk. Onion and garlic lovers could also have an overall diet that protects against cancer.
The findings are in line with previous research, which were mainly conducted in China, and it is unclear if the results are different in Western countries. Dietary habits are substantially different in China, with garlic intake, in particular, being far higher. The latest findings suggest the anti-cancer benefit of these vegetables extend to Western populations.
On the other hand, animal studies and lab experiments with cancer cells have found that certain compounds in onions and garlic may inhibit the growth of tumours. Sulphur compounds found in garlic and antioxidant flavonoids in onions are among the potentially protective substances.
When it came to colon cancer, it was found that men and women who ate seven or more servings of onions per week had less than half the risk of those who shunned the vegetable. Similarly, garlic lovers were a quarter less likely to develop the disease than people who maintained garlic-free diets. The vegetables were also linked to lower risks of cancers of the mouth, throat, kidneys and ovaries.
Given what's known about the biological activity of some onion and garlic compounds, it wouldn't be a bad idea to spice up the diet with these, along with plenty of other vegetables.
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