|Emma McGowan NatureCity author & contributor|
Breast cancer strikes over 200,000 American women per year and approximately one fourth of those diagnosed succumb to this potentially fatal disease. While the causes of cancers are never definitively known, a recent meta-analysis suggests that eating foods rich in carotenoids – such as fruits and vegetables – may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
Carotenoids are the phytochemicals that provide the bright red, orange or yellow coloration to many fruit and vegetables. They serve as antioxidants and can be a good source of vitamin A. They have been shown in previous research to protect against cardiovascular disease, some cancers and macular eye disease.
The researchers found that when carotenoid levels were measured in participant’s blood, results were quite dramatic. Each additional 100 micrograms of total carotenoid per dL of blood intake was associated with a 22% reduced risk of breast cancer. As far as specific carotenoids are concerned:
• each additional 50 micrograms of beta-carotene per dL of blood was associated with a 26% reduced risk;
• each additional 10 micrograms of alpha-carotene per dL of blood was associated with a 18% reduced risk;
• each additional 25 micrograms of lutein per dL of blood was associated with a 32% reduced risk.
The researchers for this study were based at Imperial College in London, UK. They published their results online ahead of print on July 3, 2012, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
If you want to get more carotenoids in your diet, the easiest way is to make sure that your meals contain a variety of colors. Include as many fruits and vegetables as possible and switch it up now and then. The beneficial actions of carotenoids are optimal when a variety of carotenoids are consumed together.