Eat Your Veggies and Fight Cancer, Too
Anticancer shopping list: broccoli sprouts, cabbage, garlic
Cabbage: Eat It Raw
Polish women are more likely to get breast cancer if they emigrate to the
U.S. Why, wondered Dorothy Rybaczyk-Pathak, PhD, of the University of New
Mexico. She guessed it must have something to do with changing dietary
A likely suspect: cabbage. Polish women traditionally consume 30 pounds of
cabbage a year -- much of it in the form of raw sauerkraut, in salads, or in
short-cooked side dishes. When they emigrate to America, they eat only 10
pounds of cabbage a year.
Cabbage -- like broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, and
cauliflower -- is a cruciferous vegetable. When broken down by chewing, cabbage
releases several biologically active products including compounds called
glucosinolates and an enzyme called myrosinase. These products have anticancer
For the greatest benefit, timing seems to be crucial. Rybaczyk-Pathak found
that women who as teenagers ate the most raw cabbage were least likely to get
breast cancer. But even women who didn't eat much cabbage as teens had a lower
breast cancer risk if they ate a lot of raw cabbage as adults.
How much cabbage need a woman eat? Three or more servings a week of raw or
short-cooked cabbage puts a woman in the lowest risk category.
Unfortunately, traditional long-cooked Polish dishes such as hunter's stew,
pierogi, and cabbage rolls did not lower cancer risk.
Garlic Wards Off Cancer
Vegetables fight cancer. But meats cooked at high temperatures -- as in
grilling or frying -- contain a cancer-causing chemical called PhIP.
A compound called diallyl sulfide or DAS is one of the things that gives
garlic its pungent flavor. Now researchers led by Ronald D. Thomas, PhD, of
Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, report that DAS counteracts the
cancer-causing actions of PhIP.
In the lab, Thomas and colleagues added PhIP, DAS, or both to human breast
cells. Sure enough, PhIP made the cells secrete high amounts of cancer-causing
enzymes. But PhIP completely protected cells from this effect.
It's a long way from the test tube to the human diet. But if garlic
protected humans at the same dose at which it protected cell cultures, Thomas
says garlic would have to make up one one-thousandth of your diet.