June 17, 2009

Whole Carrots Offer Extra Cancer Prevention

New research shows that the anti-cancer properties of carrots are more potent if the vegetable is not cut up before cooking, BBC News reported.

"Boiled before cut" carrots were found to contain up to 25 percent more of the anti-cancer compound falcarinol than those that were first chopped up, scientists said.

The Newcastle University researchers, who will present their findings in France at the NutrEvent conference on nutrition and health, gave falcarinol to lab rats and found that they develop fewer tumors as result of the compound.

"Chopping up your carrots increases the surface area so more of the nutrients leach out into the water while they are cooked," said lead researcher Dr. Kirsten Brandt, from Newcastle University's School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development.

She said that keeping the carrots whole and chopping them up afterwards will lock in both the nutrients and the taste, therefore the carrot is all round better for you.

The health benefits of falcarinol in carrots were discovered four years ago, according to scientist at The Newcastle, along with colleagues at the University of Denmark.

A steady diet containing carrots or falcarinol was found to make laboratory rats one-third less likely to develop full-scale tumors than those in the control group, they noted.

The Newcastle researchers have since been studying what happens when carrots are chopped and cooked. They found that when carrots are heated, the heat kills the cells, so they lose the ability to hold on to the water inside them, increasing the concentration of falcarinol as the carrots lose water.

They also discovered that the heat also softens the cell walls, allowing water-soluble compounds such as sugar and vitamin C to be lost through the surface of the tissue. This causes the falcarinol and other compounds to be leached out of the carrot.

The surface area becomes much greater if the carrot is cut before being boiled, which increases the loss of nutrients.

The whole carrots also tasted much better in blind taste studies, Brandt added. He said eight of ten people favored the whole vegetables over those that were pre-chopped.

Carrots that had been cooked whole also possess higher concentrations of the naturally occurring sugars that are responsible for giving the carrot its distinctively sweet flavor.

"The great thing about this is it's a simple way for people to increase their uptake of a compound we know is good for you. All you need is a bigger saucepan," Brandt said.

However, some experts remain skeptical; such as Dr. Kat Arney of the charity Cancer Research UK, who said keeping carrots whole would not have any impact on cancer risk.

"When it comes to eating, we know that a healthy balanced diet - rich in a range of fruit and vegetables - plays an important part in reducing the risk of many types of cancer, rather than any one specific food," Arney said.


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Newcastle University

Cancer Research UK