Spice Up Your Diet for Cancer Protection
November 15, 2007—A study in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that reducing your risk of colon cancer may be as simple as adding some garlic to your meals.
Colorectal cancer (cancer that affects any part of the colon or rectum) is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States and the second leading cause in Canada and Australia. Many studies have identified a connection between diet and colorectal cancer: diets higher in animal foods such as butter, cheese, cream, and well-done meats raise risk. On the other hand, people who eat more fruits and vegetables tend to have a lower risk.
In addition to its culinary uses, garlic has received attention for its potential anticancer effects, which are thought to come from its sulfur-containing compounds as well as vitamins A and D, selenium, and antioxidant flavonoids.
The new study reviewed 21 trials that examined garlic’s effects on colorectal cancer. The amounts of garlic used varied greatly from one study to another, but taken together it appears that garlic did have protective effects. One study reported that among people with colorectal cancer, taking aged garlic extract lowered their risk of developing new colorectal tumors by 29%. Another analysis of seven studies showed a 30% reduction in colon cancer risk among people who ate the most garlic (between one and five cloves per week) compared with those who ate the least.
“The studies demonstrated a consistent inverse relationship between garlic intake and colorectal cancer,” the authors of the review said. They added, “Due to the great [variability] of measures of intake among studies, it is not possible to determine a minimum amount of garlic necessary to exhibit a protective effect.”
Steps you can take to lower colon cancer risk
- Get regular exercise—People who are more physically fit have a lower chance of developing colon cancer.
- Maintain a healthy weight—Being obese or overweight could raise the risk of colon cancer.
- Don’t smoke—Smoking increases the risk of several cancers including cancer of the lung, esophagus, pancreas, and colon.
- Get your greens—Eating more cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli, collards, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts can help decrease colon cancer risk.
- “Bulk up”—Get more fiber in your diet by eating more whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
- Add garlic to your daily meal plan—Try crushing fresh garlic into tasty spreads, dressings, and salsas; chop and add to stir-fried veggies; or roast with other vegetables like beets, onions, and sweet potatoes for a savory combination.
(J Nutr 2007;137:2264–9)
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Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.
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