Carrots help protect against cancer

Scientists claim that carrots could help cut the risks of heart disease and protect against cancer.

Last Updated: Nov 23, 2010, 23:55 PM IST

London: It`s known that carrots are good for your eyesight, now scientists claim the humble vegetable could also help cut the risks of heart disease and protect against
cancer.

Researchers at the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta found that carrots are packed with carotenoids, the naturally occurring pigments synthesised by
plants, which help fight off many diseases, including lung cancer.

The antioxidants, which are responsible for the yellow, orange and red colours of many plants, are also found in dark-green vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, and green
peas, the Telegraph reported.

The researchers also found a substance, alpha-carotene, in carrots and some other vegetables which is linked with a reduced risk of dying over a 14-year period.

According to them, chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer are caused by oxygen-related damage to DNA,fats and proteins. But carotenoids, including lycopene, beta-carotene and alpha-carotene, produced by plants and microorganisms act as antioxidants and counteract this damage, they said.

For their research, Dr Chaoyang Li and colleagues at CDC studied 15,318 adults age 20 and up who participated in a national health and nutrition survey.

The subjects underwent examinations and gave blood tests over a six year period from 1988 and 1994 and a follow-up study in 2006.

Of the participants roughly a quarter (3,810) died. But, those with higher levels of blood alpha-carotene levels had a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease or cancer, the
researchers found.

And although chemically similar to beta-carotene, it may be more effective at inhibiting the growth of cancer cells in the brain, liver and skin, they said.

Dr Li said: "Moreover, results from a population-based case-control study of the association between the consumption of fruits and vegetables and risk of lung cancer suggest that consumption of yellow-orange, carrots, sweet potatoes or pumpkin and winter squash ... which have a high alpha-carotene content, was more strongly associated with a decreased risk of lung cancer than was consumption of all other types of vegetables,"

Although studies suggest that eating more fruits and vegetables is associated with lower risk of chronic diseases, the researchers warned that randomised controlled trials have
not shown any benefit for beta-carotene supplements.

Dr Chaoyang Li said: "Therefore, carotenoids other than beta-carotene may contribute to the reduction in disease risk, and their effects on risk of disease merit investigation."

The findings were published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

PTI