Anti-cancer properties draw specialist attention

10 December 1999

Anti-cancer properties draw specialist attention

Onions and carrots were the

topics of conversation at a

recdent Horticultural

Development Council

conference. Here

Edward Long reports on

the onion highlights –

carrot developments will

follow next week

ONIONS are exciting cancer specialists as they contain bio-chemicals with medicinal properties and are a rich source of antioxidants.

The ancient vegetable could soon prove to be a vital ingredient in human diets.

"One of the antioxidants is the compound quertin which inhibits lesion development in the colon of rats and may prove to be an effective preventive for human colon cancers," Michael Wargovich of the South Carolina Cancer Center told the first ever combined carrot and onion conference in Lincolnshire. We are still 10 years away from making claims for anti-cancer properties of onions but, like tea, they are a good source of antioxidants," he said.

"They do reduce the risk of heart disease, Dutch research has shown that just small levels of quertin in the diet reduces the risk of heart disease by 50%, and they could do the same for cancers."

Samples of European onions sent to the USA for analysis show there are varietal differences, European types contained more of the compound than US varieties. The highest concentration was in Red Baron.

"Onions should be added regularly to the diet, but we do not yet know how much is needed. My advise is to stick to the actual vegetable and not opt for a dietary supplement," said Prof Wargovich.

The conference was organised jointly by the British Onion Producers Association, British Carrot Growers Association, DMA Crop Consultants and David OConnor & Associates. It was sponsored by Elsoms Seeds.

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