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Breast Cancer Health Center

An Apple a Day May Cut Breast Cancer Risk

Best to Get Antioxidants From Food, Not Supplements, Researchers Find
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March 2, 2005 -- Eating an apple a day may help guard against breast cancerguard against breast cancer, say Cornell University researchers.

If you're going to act on the finding -- which comes from lab tests on rats -- grab an apple instead of reaching for vitamins and supplements from bottles, suggest the researchers.

Studies have consistently shown that diets high in fruits and vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases.

The credit probably goes to disease-fighting antioxidants from plants known as phytochemicalsphytochemicals, they write. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other plant foods are packed with antioxidants. The chemicals have been widely studied for their benefits against heart disease, cancer, and preventing diseases such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetes, say the researchers.

Whole Foods Trump Supplements

Antioxidants are good for you, but does it matter if it comes from a pill or from produce?

Yes, say the researchers. Antioxidants in foods work together and their combined effect is greatest, they explain.

"No single antioxidant can replace the combination of natural phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables in achieving ultimate health benefits," write the researchers. "The pure compounds either lose their bioactivities in isolation or may not behave the same way as the compound in complex whole foods.

"Our findings suggest that consumers may gain more significant health benefits from including whole foods in their balanced diet than from more expensive dietary supplements, which do not contain the same array of balanced, complex components."

Testing the Theory

The researchers gave rats a chemical to induce breast cancer. The scientists also brewed extracts made from Red Delicious apples, which are commonly found in grocery stores across America.

The researchers tested three doses of the extract. For humans, the doses equaled eating one, three, or six apples per day.

After 24 weeks, breast tumor rates were 17% lower in the rats receiving the low dose of the apple extract, 39% lower with the medium dose, and 44% lower with the high dose.

The number of tumors also dropped 25% with the low dose, 25% with the medium dose, and 61% with the high dose.

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