How to live longer: The popular condiment that may reduce risk of cancer

Longevity requires an unyielding commitment to healthy lifestyle decisions, such as eating a healthy diet. The prevalence of cancer reflects that the formula is not foolproof, but, even then, there are ways to reduce your risk. Although your overall dietary approach is what counts, there are some foods that have been shown to provide particular benefits.

One surprising association is horseradish, a spicy vegetable that forms the basis of popular condiment.

Horseradish boasts plant compounds that have been shown to offer protection against cancer.

Research has found that glucosinolates and isothiocyanates - compounds found in the root vegetable - may protect against cancer by inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, as well as promoting their death.

Some horseradish compounds, such as sinigrin, may also act as antioxidants and fight cell damage caused by free radicals, evidence suggests.

Bolstering the claim, a diet that encourages both healthy eating and physical activity and discourages alcohol consumption was associated with a reduced overall cancer risk, as well as lower breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer risks, in a large-scale analysis.

The study evaluated three previously validated nutritional recommendations: The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) score; the Alternate Healthy Eating Index; and the French Nutrition and Health Program-Guidelines Score, plus one relatively new index, the MEDI-LITE score, which measures adherence to a Mediterranean diet.

Researchers found that all the diets were associated with some reduced risk, but the WCRF/AICR recommendations, developed specifically with cancer prevention in mind, had the strongest association with reduced risk.

The WCRF/AICR recommendations are as follows:

Have a weight considered in the normal rangeAre physically active

Have a diet characterised by:

High consumption of plant foods and whole grain cerealsLow consumption of sugary drinksLow consumption of meatsLow consumption of alcoholic drinksLow consumption of salt and salt-preserved foods

In order to examine links between the four nutritional indices and cancer risk, researchers drew data from the NutriNet-Santé study, launched in 2009 to investigate associations between nutrition and health in a French cohort.

This study included a large sample of 41,543 participants aged 40 or older, who had never been diagnosed with cancer prior to inclusion in the study.

The participants completed web-based dietary records every six months, in which they detailed all foods and beverages consumed during a 24-hour period.

The researchers then calculated their adherence to each of the four nutritional scores in the study.

After analysing the data, the researchers found that a one-point increase in the WCRF/AICR score was associated with a 12 percent decrease in overall cancer risk; a 14 percent decrease in breast cancer risk, and a 12 percent decrease in prostate cancer risk.

Adherence to the other diets was also associated with reduced cancer risk, but the WCRF/AICR index demonstrated greater statistical strength and a better predictive performance.

Commenting on the diet, the study authors said: "This emphasises the role of an overall healthy lifestyle - nutrition and physical activity and alcohol avoidance - in cancer prevention."

What to avoid

To lower your risk of cancer, health bodies suggest avoiding red or processed meat where possible.

Why? "It's the chemicals that are either found in the meat, added during processing or produced when cooking that are thought to increase the risk of cancer by damaging our cells," explains Cancer Research UK.

Processed meat includes ham, bacon, salami and sausages. Red meat includes all fresh, minced and frozen beef, pork and lamb.

According to Cancer Research UK, fresh white meat, such as chicken and fish, are not linked with an increased risk of cancer.

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