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Five foods that could protect you against cancer

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The chemical group in question was flavonoids. Flavonoids are a type of polyphonic secondary metabolite found in plants; in other words, they are a group of compounds found in common fruits and vegetables.

Flavonoids, much like other naturally occurring compounds, can have a range of benefits depending on which flavonoids are in what food and in which combination. Some can have anti-inflammatory benefits or reduce the risk of cancer.

About the latter, researchers from Edith Cowan University found flavonoids could help reduce the risk of cancer in their paper published in the journal Nature Communications.

However, while the group said they had identified an association between flavonoids and reduced cancer risk, they had worked out why this was the case. Another reason why they couldn’t draw a cause-and-effect link was that their study was observational rather than causational.

Which foods did they recommend?

The authors recommended five foods which were particularly high in flavonoids and the doses they should be taken in. These included:
• One cup of tea
• One apple
• One orange
• 100g of blueberries
• 100g of broccoli.

These, said the researchers, would provide a wide range of flavonoids and “over 500mg of total flavonoids”. Furthermore, due to the diversity of the sources, these could be spread out over a single day and were not limited to just one food group.

Lead researcher on the project Dr Nicola Bondonno said when the study was published: “These findings are important as they highlight the potential to prevent cancer by encouraging the consumption of flavonoid-rich foods, particularly in people at high risk.”

However, while flavonoids were found to help reduce the risk, this doesn’t mean they should be treated as a golden ticket to a cancer free life as the researchers explained.

Dr Bondonno said: “It’s also important to note that flavonoid consumption does not counteract all of the increased risk of death caused by smoking and high alcohol consumption. By far the best thing to do for your health is to quit smoking and cut down on alcohol.

“We know these kind of lifestyle changes can be very challenging, so encouraging flavonoid consumption might be a novel way to alleviate the increased risk, while also encouraging people to quit smoking and reduce their alcohol intake.”

Highlighted by Dr Bondonno is the impact of other lifestyle habits such as smoking, a habit responsible for the majority of lung cancer cases in the UK and a major risk factor for cancer globally.

Dr Bondonno also explained how other risk factors had an impact too: “Alcohol consumption and smoking both increase inflammation and damage blood vessels, which can increase the risk of a range of diseases.”

Subsequently, Dr Bondonno said the next step for the team was to conduct further research into flavonoid use and to establish why they had the ability to help reduce the risk of cancer.

Dr Bondonno added: “Flavonoids have been shown to be anti-inflammatory and improve blood vessel function, which may explain why they are associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease and cancer.”

Furthermore, outside of the specificities of flavonoid science, the research highlights the importance of a balanced diet in maintaining overall health.

While flavonoids are not necessarily known or common discussed in everyday parlance, they are common across the fruit and vegetable spectrum meaning it is very easy for someone to boost their levels of the naturally occurring compound.

Along with regular exercise, a balanced diet is one of the main pillars of maintaining overall health over an extended period of time. With regard to exercise, the NHS recommends at least 150 minutes (two and a half hours) a week.

Although this is the recommended minimum, it is not a cap one should aim for as the more exercise conducted, the healthier the body and mind will be.

Previous research has found that exercise releases its own set of compounds which help improve mental health and improve wellbeing.

Mental health on its own also forms a key part of maintaining overall health, both when the body is in optimum shape and when it isn’t.

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