Breathe Easier With Fruits and Veggies
WebMD News Archive
In addition to beta-carotene, the study also included four other
carotenoids: alpha-carotene, lutein, lycopene, and beta-cryptoxanthin.
Alpha-carotene is found mostly in carrots, lutein is found in green, leafy
vegetables such as spinach and kale, lycopene is found in tomatoes, and
beta-cryptoxanthin is found mostly in oranges. "Beta-carotene is found in
carrots, but also a lot of other vegetables as well -- you get a little of it
from a lot of different vegetables," says Michaud.
Although many people take beta-carotene supplements, "if anything, the
association [with reduced lung cancer risk] was stronger for alpha-carotene
than beta-carotene," she notes. For instance, among nonsmokers, those who
ate the most fruits and vegetables containing alpha-carotene had a 63% decrease
in lung cancer risk compared to those who ate the least of these foods.
John Weisburger, PhD, a senior member of the American Health Foundation in
Valhalla, N.Y., explains that while carotenoids undoubtedly play a role in
neutralizing free radicals, "fruits and vegetables also contain other
antioxidants, like quercitin, that may also play a role," he says.
Although the study's findings apply to smokers and nonsmokers alike, Michaud
has a message for smokers in particular. "We want to re-emphasize that for
lung cancer, the most important thing is to have people stop smoking," she
says. "Then, on top of that, diets rich in fruits and vegetables provide
protection as well." Smoking accounts for more than 90% of the lung cancer
cases seen yearly.
Michaud adds, "We're not sure exactly what's in vegetables that gives
protection, so it's important to eat the fruits and vegetables and not just
take a pill."