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Avocados: A Super Cancer Fighting Food

Posted: 07/29/10 08:00 AM ET

Avocados are one of the great cancer fighting foods, rich in a multiplicity of nutrients, including many potent anti-oxidants and phytochemicals as well as vitamins, minerals, fiber and monounsaturated healthy fats.

Phytochemicals (plant chemicals) are defined as bioactive non-nutrient plant compounds in fruits, vegetables, grains, and other plant foods that have been linked to reducing the risk of major chronic diseases including cancer.

Antioxidants and Phytochemicals found in avocados include:

Carotenoids: beta carotene, alpha carotene, zeaxanthin shown to inhibit the growth of prostate, breast and head and neck (oral) cancers.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant. Its role in cancer prevention is ambiguous due to several conflicting studies. Research suggests that the Vitamin E found in its natural form in foods such as avocados is indeed protective, while synthetic Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol acetate) supplements do not show this protective effect. The Nurses Health Study studied 83,234 women at baseline and sought to assess the incidence of breast cancer during a 14-year follow-up. The study showed that pre-menopausal women with a family history of breast cancer who consumed the highest quantity of vitamin E enjoyed a 43 percent reduction in breast cancer incidence compared to only a 16 percent risk reduction for women without a family history of breast cancer. The data indicates that some of the vitamin E compounds in food may account for the dramatic reductions in breast cancer incidence when dietary intake levels of vitamin E are measured.

Lutein: women with increased intake of lutein in their diets have been shown to have lower rates of breast cancer ( Freudenheim JL, Marshall JR, Vena JE et al: Premenopausal breast cancer risk and intake of vegetables, fruits, and related nutrients. J Natl Cancer Inst 1996; 88(6):340-348. ) Lutein is also found in high quantities in kale, brocolli and spinach.

Glutathione Glutathione is the body's master antioxidant. When liver glutathione levels rise, the liver is able to more effectively detoxify the body and protect the cells from oxidative stress. Whey protein also increases the glutathioine levels of healthy cells while decreasing the glutathione levels of cancer cells.

Oleic Acid Avocados are also a source of fiber and oleic acid, a healthy monounsaturated fat. Oleic acid helps to lower unhealthy LDL plaque forming cholesterol. Increasing healthy dietary fats. Lowering cholesterol and body fat not only lead to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease but also lead to reduced inflammation and reduced cancer risk.

Oleic acid, the primary fat in avocados has been shown to offer significant protection against breast cancer. Women eating a diet rich in oleic acid have shown decreased rates of breast cancer. Oleic acid is also found in olives, olive oil, walnuts, almonds and pine nuts.

The phytochemicals listed above are all better absorbed in the presence of healthy fats and oils. Therefore the oleic acid in avocados not only helps the body to absorb and utilize the antioxidants also found within the avocado itself but contributes to the absorption of phytochemicals contained in other fruits and vegetables eaten at the same meal. Nature's design provides for optimum utilization of nutrients.

The average avocado contains only 12.5 mg of fat and 235 calories. Avocados should not be considered a fattening food when consumed as part of a healthy meal.

One cup of Avocados also contains as much as 30 percent of your daily fiber intake as well as significant amounts of Vitamin K, Potassium, Folate, and Vitamin B6 all important to normal healthy cell function and cancer prevention.

Adding an avocado to your diet several times each week will provide a wide variety of nutrients that show compelling cancer fighting properties. As Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, said, "Let your food be your medicine."

References

Zhong S., et al. Dietary crotenoids and vitamins A, C, and E and risk of breast cancer. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 91 (1999) 547-556.

Shibata A., et al. Intake of vegetables, fruits, beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin supplements and cancer incidence among the elderly-a prospective study. Br. J. Cancer. 66 (1992) 673-679.

J Nutr. 2004 Dec;134(12 Suppl):3479S-3485S. Potential synergy of phytochemicals in cancer prevention: mechanism of action.

Liu RH. Department of Food Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA. RL23@cornell.edu

SEMIN CANCER BIOL. 2007 OCT;17(5):386-94. EPUB 2007 MAY 17.

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