It's a known fact that a vegetarian diet helps fight cancer, but new research suggests that plants may protect us from cancer in a far more novel way -- they may block a cancer's ability to grow.
Populations that consume less animal food and more plant food have a lower risk of cancer. The risk of cancer in vegetarians is about 50 per cent lower than among people who eat meat on a regular basis.
Plant foods are high in antioxidants, and antioxidants can protect DNA from damage that can lead to malignant transformation.
According to the new study, vegetarian food can block cancer's ability to grow via a procees called angiogenesis, a tissue's ability to grow new blood vessels, reports The Age.
If the process of angiogenesis goes awry, new blood vessels don't form when they are needed, or blood vessel formation continues out of control.
Researchers have developed some drugs that can help to shrink tumour growth or even reduce the spread of cancer by inhibiting angiogenesis.
Scientists like William Li, a researcher who heads the Angiogenesis Foundation in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are looking at the power of certain foods to block angiogenesis.
The plant chemicals in foods like apples, oranges, blackberries, vegetables like tomato pumpkins etc seem to be able to inhibit angiogenesis so that a single cancer cell or cluster of cancer cells is never able to grow enough to cause any mischief. Some plants also contain tumour-suppressor proteins, which help to curb the growth of cancer cells.
Studies in the past have shown that men who eat cooked tomato products two to three times a week reduce their prostate cancer risk by about 50 per cent.
Up to 35 per cent of cancers may be caused by poor diet, and cancer risk is also much higher among people who are obese.
Photograph: Arko Datta/Reuters