It has long been a cliché to say that people should eat their vegetables. It is a lesser-known fact that a lot of vegans don’t like eating vegetables any more than their carnivorous counterparts. But recent nutritional studies will have both groups reconsider their stance if they don’t like going green at the dinner table. Vegans who have made their full transition and brought veggies to the forefront of their plates can expect to live longer and in greater comfort, the studies suggest.
Two studies, one by the University of Illinois that says celery contains cancer-killing ingredients, and a second compiled by the National Cancer Institute that says meats might contain cancer-creating ingredients are sure to pique the curiosity of even the most indifferent eaters.
Celery is cheap; it’s easy to eat on the run and if one dislikes the flavor, it is quite easy to dunk it into a healthy dip or use it to scoop some natural peanut butter, a wonderful source of vegan protein and iron that gives a good dose of calories doesn’t add a lot of carbs.
Celery contains compounds called flavonoids. The name is shortened from bioflavonoids, a term that was still used back when anti-oxidant was a new term and free radicals was still misinterpreted as a call to bail hippies out of jail. The specific flavonoids in celery have recently found to literally kill pancreatic cancer cells. Pancreatic cancer remains one of the most aggressive forms of the disease.
The University study, headed by professor of food chemistry and toxicology Elvira de Mejia , found using a flavonoid called Apigenin as a pre-treatment before administering a chemotherapeutic drug inhibited an enzyme that facilitated killing human pancreatic cancer cells.
"Apigenin alone induced cell death in two aggressive human pancreatic cancer cell lines. But we received the best results when we pre-treated cancer cells with apigenin for 24 hours, then applied the chemotherapeutic drug gemcitabine for 36 hours," de Mejia said in a statement.
The study did say that one could not load up on celery to kill off already-present cancer, but that it did make subsequent chemotherapy more effective. And as for prevention, consumption of such flavonoids can be quite effective.
"If you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables throughout your life, you'll have chronic exposure to these bioactive flavonoids, which would certainly help to reduce the risk of cancer," de Mejia said.
The findings were published online in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. Different studies show that not all vegetables may be as power-packed as celery in killing cancer cells, but plant-based diets continue to be touted for many other benefits, such as anti-inflammatory characteristics.
Scientists still debate whether meat naturally contains carcinogens, although it has been shown that cancer-causing chemicals are released when meat is cooked at high temperatures, which alter the meat’s composition. When meats are grilled over open flame, grease that drips down and ignites becomes carcinogenic, according fact sheets from the National Cancer Institute.
Associated studies found that “Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are [carcinogenic] chemicals formed when muscle meat, including beef, pork, fish, and poultry, is cooked using high-temperature methods, such as pan frying or grilling directly over an open flame.”
The study documents add that “The formation of HCAs and PAHs is influenced by the type of meat, the cooking time, the cooking temperature, and the cooking method” and goes on to say that “Exposure to high levels of HCAs and PAHs can cause cancer in animals; however, whether such exposure causes cancer in humans is unclear”.
Currently, no Federal guidelines address consumption levels of HCAs and PAHs formed in meat, but was is stated that: ”ongoing studies are investigating the associations between meat intake, meat cooking methods, and cancer risk” and that “HCA and PAH formation can be reduced by avoiding direct exposure of meat to an open flame or a hot metal surface, reducing the cooking time, and using a microwave oven to partially cook meat before exposing it to high temperatures”.