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Last Updated:  Monday, 31 March, 2003, 23:04 GMT 00:04 UK
Food combining 'fights cancer'
Roast chicken dinner
Chicken contains the cancer-fighting mineral selenium
Eating certain foods together, such as chicken and broccoli or salmon and watercress could help to fight cancer, say researchers.

Combining two food components called sulforaphane and selenium make them up to 13 times more powerful in attacking cancer together than they are alone, they suggested.

The discovery could mean it could be possible to design special cancer-fighting foods or diets.

It opens up new possibilities for functional foods, food supplements or simply new guidelines for healthy eating
Dr Yongping Bao, IFR
Sulforaphane, a plant chemical which could be used to prevent and treat cancer, is found at high concentrations in broccoli, sprouts, cabbage, watercress and salad rocket.

Foods rich in the essential mineral selenium include nuts, poultry, fish, eggs, sunflower seeds and mushrooms.

Selenium deficiency has been linked to the incidence of many types of cancers, including prostate. But UK diets include half the levels of the mineral as they did 20 years ago.

Scientists from the Institute of Food Research (IFR) in Norwich were looking at genes that play an important role in the formation and development of tumours and the spread of tumour cells.

When combined, sulforaphane and selenium had a bigger impact on the genes than they did alone.

The IFR research has concentrated on cell cultures. Human trials could begin next year.

Concentrations

Researchers say it may be possible to develop special foods or issue new guidelines for healthy eating.

Top chefs may even be asked to develop cancer-fighting recipes such as a chicken dish with sprouts, red cabbage and nuts sprinkled on top.

Dr Yongping Bao, senior researcher at the IFR, said: "As a result of this research, we hope to begin a human cancer prevention trial next year.

"It opens up new possibilities for functional foods, food supplements or simply new guidelines for healthy eating."

He added: "High concentrations in the diet are normally required to protect against cancer, but when these compounds act synergistically, lower doses are needed to prevent cancer formation.

"This is particularly good news as selenium and sulforaphane can be toxic at high levels."

The research is published in the journal Carcinogenesis.


SEE ALSO:
Caffeine clue to fighting cancer
21 Aug 02  |  Health
Wheat may prevent colon cancer
23 Feb 02  |  Health
Lemon tea 'fights skin cancer'
24 Aug 01  |  Health


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