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Strong-flavored onions show promise for fighting cancer

Imperial Valley Sweet and Vidalia had the lowest total antioxidant activity, Liu says.

In tests against liver and colon cancer cells, onions were significantly better at inhibiting the growth of colon cancer cells than liver cancer cells, an indication that they are potentially better at fighting colon cancer, the researcher says. The strongest cancer-fighters tested were the New York Bold variety, Western Yellow and shallots. The sweetest tasting onions, including the beloved Vidalia, showed relatively little cancer-fighting ability, he notes.

Green onions and cocktail onions were not tested in this study, nor did the researcher test whether cooking made a difference in terms of cancer-fighting ability. Liu cautions that human studies are needed before any definitive links between onion consumption and cancer-prevention can be established.

While popular as fried rings, onions are known mostly for their ability to add flavor to a variety of food dishes, including meats, pizza, soups and salads. But they are increasingly becoming known for their potential health benefits. Onions are rich in a flavor compound known as quercetin, a potent antioxidant that has been linked to protection against cataracts and heart disease as well as cancer. They are also sodium, fat and cholesterol free.

Onions are the third-most consumed vegetable crop in the United States, with a per capita consumption estimated around 19 pounds per year and a retail value estimated at $3 billion to $4 billion, according to the National Onion Association.

Onions can be part of a healthy diet. The National Cancer Institute recommends eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.


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Contact: Michael Bernstein
m_bernstein@acs.org
202-872-6042
American Chemical Society
21-Oct-2004


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