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Reduce your risk of breast cancer by eating more onions and garlic: Research

Sofrito, a condiment made from onions and garlic, is a staple in Puerto Rican kitchens. Some personalized recipes might feature other healthful herbs and spices like cilantro and peppers, but its most basic ingredients remain the same. It can be consumed as a dip like salsa or used as a foundation for rice dishes.

But recent research finds that there might be more to this iconic condiment than its rich Puerto Rican character. In a major breakthrough, scientists from the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo) and the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) found that sofrito is linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer.

In particular, women who consumed sofrito more than once daily had an incredible 67 percent decrease in breast cancer risk compared to women who never ate it. Lead author Gauri Desai from SUNY Buffalo thinks the sofrito’s anti-cancer effect stems from the combination of potent organic compounds in onion and garlic.

Sofrito, the anti-cancer condiment

Past studies on onion and garlic intake have so far drawn a link between the consumption of these two ingredients and the risk of certain cancers, including those of the lungs, prostate and stomach. But little is known about the potential effects of onion and garlic intake on breast cancer risk, in particular.

To this end, Desai and her colleagues followed a cohort of 314 Puerto Rican women with confirmed breast cancer cases and 346 control subjects from 2008 to 2014. The participants recorded their dietary intake using food frequency questionnaires throughout the assessment.

Puerto Rican women were a unique cohort to examine, said Desai, since Puerto Ricans ate more onions and garlic as part of their cuisine compared to those in the US or Europe. Puerto Rico also has lower breast cancer rates compared to the US, thus making it an ideal population to examine with regards to breast cancer risk.

Their findings, published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer, showed that the combined intake of onion and garlic, as well as sofrito, was associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer.

These findings also confirm that the combination of anti-carcinogenic compounds in onion and garlic, such as quercetin, saponin and alliin, are also potent against breast cancer. (Related: Quercetin is one of the most potent natural antioxidants on the planet.)

Latinas, as a demographic, are about 30 percent less at risk of breast cancer compared to the average woman in the US, said Desai. This research might explain how that came to be. However, Puerto Rico has seen an increasing trend in their rate of breast cancer in recent times.

Desai and her colleagues explained that the research on breast cancer in Puerto Rico is still scant, so it’s difficult to speculate about the possible causes of the rising incidence of breast cancer in the region. Further research on breast cancer among Puerto Ricans might help shed light on the subject.

Potent cancer-fighting foods

Numerous studies on onions, garlic and other foods classified under the Allium genus of plants confirm their cancer-fighting properties.

In 2017, for instance, Chinese researchers examined existing studies on the role of garlic, onion and other alliums in protecting against chronic diseases like cancer.

The group found that the functional components of alliums, including organosulfur compounds, carotenoids and tocopherols, among others, can be utilized to minimize the risk of chronic diseases. The organosulfur compounds, in particular, appear to be among the most potent cancer-fighting components of alliums.

In garlic, these compounds include diallyl thiosulfinate (allicin), diallyl trisulfide, allyl methyl trisulfide, diallyl disulphide and ajoene. Multiple studies found that these components can suppress inflammation linked to chronic diseases and inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

Meanwhile, onions contain phenolic acids, thiosulfinates and anthocyanins on top of their organosulfur compounds. Together, these components help stall tumor formation. Fisetin, an antioxidant in onion, is also a promising agent for holistic cancer treatment, according to recent studies.

Read more articles about cancer-fighting foods at

Sources include:

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