Sunday, May 18, 2008

Eat This and You May Ward Off Cancer

Eat broccoli. And tomatoes. The trick is to eat them together.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana have determined that eating broccoli and tomatoes together may offer better protection against prostate cancer than eating either vegetable alone, reports Reuters. Why? Mixing the compounds from the two foods could have a synergistic effect.

The study, which was done in rats, looked at the effect of these two foods as a unit. Previous research has found that each of them separately offer protection against cancer. For tomatoes, the lycopene--that's what makes them red--is likely the magic ingredient. For broccoli, it's a compound called glucosinolates.

The Illinois study supports the idea that the mixtures of compounds in foods work together to preserve health, notes Reuters. "We decided to look at these foods in combination because we believed it was a way to learn more about real diets eaten by real people," lead study author John Erdman, a professor of food science and nutrition, said at a news conference announcing the findings.

The study: Four groups of rats were injected with human prostate tumors that mimic human cancer to a certain degree (although not perfectly). Each of the rat groups were fed one of the following: dried, powdered tomato; dried broccoli; a combination of both; or a drug called finasteride that has been shown to reduce the benign growth of the prostate.

The results: All the rats developed prostate cancer tumors, but the tumors grew more slowly and stayed smaller in the three groups of rats that had been given the food supplements. The rats given both broccoli and tomato had the smallest tumors, notes Reuters. "Separately, these two foods appear to have enormous cancer-fighting potential. Together, they bring out the best in each other and maximize the cancer-fighting effect," Erdman said.

The study findings were published in the Journal of Nutrition.

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