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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Research Shows Spinach Can Help Prevent Ovarian Cancer

by Frank Mangano

It's no secret that fruits and vegetables provide the body with the essential vitamins, nutrients and minerals that help keep the body free of disease. But how great would it be if specific foods warded off specific illnesses? Well, based on some recent research, that could very well be a reality.

Published in the International Journal of Cancer, researchers have discovered that the compounds found in specific vegetables may prove as an effective deterrent to one of the most prevalent cancers among women today: ovarian cancer.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause in cancer-related deaths, preceded by lung, breast, colorectal and pancreatic. Though there hasn't been a significant rise in the number of ovarian cancer diagnoses over the past 20 years in the United States, in 2004 alone, nearly 15,000 women died from it, despite the estimated $2.2 billion annually spent on treating the disease.

Before I get to some of the salutiferous (i.e. healthful) cruciferous (some of them) vegetables cited in the research, you may be wondering what it is about these vegetables that make them cancer fighting. Researchers believe the flavonoids found in the vegetables are the likely purveyors of protection as they not only shield the body from disease upon consumption but ward off diseases from infecting the vegetable as well.

Researchers came to their conclusions after reviewing the diets of 67,000 women over 14 years and found that women who consumed the most flavonoids were 40 percent less likely to develop ovarian cancer. Though all flavonoids are considered good for you and disease fighting, kaempferol was singled out as the most effective in fighting ovarian cancer. This odd-sounding flavonoid is naturally-occurring and some studies suggest it has anti-depressant properties. But for ovarian cancer purposes, kaempferol is particularly dense in vegetables like broccoli, kale and spinach (I guess Popeye was on to something).

Another particularly effective flavonoid is luteolin. Frequently found in leaves and bark, this other odd-sounding flavonoid is found in salad vegetable faves like peppers, cabbage and carrots. Women who consumed these kinds of vegetables were 34 percent less likely to develop ovarian cancer than women who consumed the least amount of flavonoids.

Another food with ovarian cancer-protective qualities due to its flavonoid density is - you guessed it - blueberries. The blue beauties have a flavonoid called myricetin, which is also found in grapes and walnuts.

While these findings suggest women eat some vegetables over others, researchers are reluctant in advising this because there is still some question as to the exact source of the cancer-fighting properties. Hopefully, women (and men) have the means and desire to eat a wide variety of vegetables, as just about all of them have carved out their own niche in the disease-fighting department.

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