Why do people who eat more plants get less cancer? The largest prospective study of diet and cancer in history, for example, found that vegetarians had lower levels of all cancers combined. This could be due to what they eat less of:
- animal protein
- arachidonic acid
- heme iron
- heterocyclic amines
- industrial pollutants
- poultry viruses
- saturated fat
- steroid hormones
There are also components of plant foods they are getting more of that can help eliminate excess estrogen; extinguish free radicals; and boost our antioxidant, detoxification, and DNA repair enzymes. What we do eat may be as important as what we don’t eat.
The green pigment itself—chlorophyll—may even intercept carcinogens. See my 2-min. video Eating Green to Prevent Cancer, where which I profile a study entitled “Effects of Chlorophyll on Low-Dose Aflatoxin in Human Volunteers.” Researchers had people drink a solution of radioactive aflatoxin, the carcinogen that used to be a problem in peanut butter, with or without spinach chlorophyll. Check out the video to see the amazing results.
For more on protective compounds in plants, check out my 2-min. video Phytochemicals: The Nutrition Facts Missing From the Label. Green pigments are just one sliver of the rainbow though. There are benefits to the yellow ones, orange ones, red ones, and blue ones. Sounds like a Dr. Seuss book!
-Michael Greger, M.D.
PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2014 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.
Image credit: Anderson Mancini / Flickr