Super veggie: Red onions kill cancer cells, study finds

GUELPH, Ontario — New research from the University of Guelph in Ontario has found that compounds in red onions help kill cancer cells.

The study, which examined how efficiently five different types of Ontario-grown onions fight cancer cells, found that Ruby Ring onions were the most effective.

Red onions
A new study finds that a compound found in red onions are effective in fighting cancer, particularly colon and breast cancer.

The red onion — especially ones grown in Ontario — hold high amounts of quercetin, a type of flavonoid that has been shown to help treat heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, asthma, and a slew of other conditions.

The researchers also found the vegetable contains large concentrations of anthocyanin, which boosts the scavenging aspects of quercetin molecules.

“Anthocyanin is instrumental in providing color to fruits and vegetables, so it makes sense that the red onions, which are darkest in color, would have the most cancer-fighting power,” says Abdulmonem Murayyan, a PhD student at the university and the study’s lead author, in a press release.

To reach their conclusions, Murayyan’s team placed colon cancer cells and quercetin extracted from the five onions in direct contact, and found that the red onion was the most effective in destroying the cells.

“We found onions are excellent at killing cancer cells,” says Murayyan. “Onions activate pathways that encourage cancer cells to undergo cell death. They promote an unfavourable environment for cancer cells and they disrupt communication between cancer cells, which inhibits growth.”

Furthermore, the study found that the vegetables also excel at killing breast cancer cells.

Murayyan said the next step will be to test the onion’s cancer inhibiting abilities in human trials.

The study’s findings were published in the journal Food Research International.


  1. does cooking the onions affect the potency? or do the onions have to be eaten raw to get the benefit?

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