Regularly including onions, garlic in diet may lower breast cancer risk significantly

BUFFALO, N. Y. — Onions and garlic are integral ingredients to countless recipes, including sofrito, a classic Puerto Rican condiment. Now, after examining the relationship between onion and garlic consumption and breast cancer rates in Puerto Rico, a new study has concluded that these two flavorful vegetables may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.

Researchers from the University of Buffalo, working together with University of Puerto Rico personnel, conducted the first ever population-based study examining the relationship between onion, garlic, and breast cancer. The study was based off of previous research that indicated onion and garlic consumption may help protect against cancer.

A total of 314 women with breast cancer and 346 control subjects were studied between 2008-2014.

“We found that among Puerto Rican women, the combined intake of onion and garlic, as well as sofrito, was associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer,” says Gauri Desai, the study’s lead author, in a university release.

According to the study’s authors, Puerto Rican women who consumed sofrito more than once a day had a 67% decrease in breast cancer risk compared to women who never ate sofrito. It’s worth mentioning, though, that researchers say that it was total consumption of onions and garlic, not just sofrito, that was associated with lower risk of breast cancer.

Women in Puerto Rico typically eat more onions and garlic than women living in the mainland United States or Europe, making it the perfect place to conduct the study. Besides sofrito, onions and garlic can be found almost universally in Puerto Rican stews and bean or rice-based dishes. Furthermore, the Puerto Rican female population experiences lower rates of breast cancer compared to the female population of the mainland United States.

“There is very little research on breast cancer in Puerto Rico. This study was a collaboration between my colleagues here at UB and at the University of Puerto Rico to help us understand why rates there are lower than in the rest of the U.S.,” says study co-author Jo Freudenheim.

Researchers believe that the large amounts of flavonols and organosulfar compounds found in both onions and garlic may be responsible for their anti-cancer benefits.

“These compounds show anticarcinogenic properties in humans, as well as in experimental animal studies,” says Lina Mu, the study’s senior author.

The study is published in the scientific journal Nutrition and Cancer.

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John Anderer

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