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Onions and garlic may protect against breast cancer

New research has analyzed the relationship between onion and garlic consumption among women in Puerto Rico and suggests that they may significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer.

A decrease in the risk of cancer

Onions and garlic are part of the allium species, along with leeks, chives and hundreds of other species. They have been used for hundreds of years for various health conditions. American researchers have studied the relationship between the consumption of garlic and onions in Puerto Rican sauce and breast cancer.

Several studies had already shown that the consumption of garlic and onion could reduce the risk of colorectal, gastric and prostate cancer. However, researchers from the University at Buffalo examined a population of women in Puerto Rico. Several reasons led them to choose this population. First, the city of Puerto Rico has a lower rate of breast cancer than the United States, making it an important population to study. Second, a condiment called “sofrito”, made mostly of garlic and onions, is a traditional Puerto Rican sauce, widely consumed throughout the Caribbean island.

Sofrito sauce associated with 67% reduction in breast cancer risk

The researchers, who published the results of their findings in the journal Nutrition and Cancer,  used hospital and clinic registries to identify 314 women aged 30 to 79 with breast cancer between 2008 and 2014. The researchers also included 346 control participants selected on the basis of age and place of residence. Control participants had no history of cancer other than non-melanoma skin cancer. The researchers used a questionnaire to find out about dietary habits and total onion and garlic consumption, including sofrito consumption. The team considered factors such as age, family history, education, body mass index,

Scientists have found an association between moderate and high consumption of onions and garlic and cases of breast cancer. They noted that in Puerto Rican women, the combined consumption of onions and garlic, as well as sofrito, was linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer. Specifically, the authors write that  “ consumption of sofrito, when examined alone, was inversely associated with breast cancer; in people who consumed sofrito more than once a day, the risk was reduced by 67%, compared to people who never consumed it  ”. Although the study is observational and cannot explain the mechanisms underlying the findings,researchers suspect that the flavonols and organosulfur compounds abundant in onions and garlic are responsible for the anti-cancer effects.

Stephanie Haerts

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