Sunday, May 15, 2011

Are Onions and Garlic a Cure for Cancer?

The Liverpool Leader reports that Mr. Munir Haidar, an immigrant to the UK from Lebanon, has been cured of "terminal" prostate cancer after eating 200 grams (about half a pound) of raw onions daily for two years.

"How your breath smells means little when your life is hanging in the balance," Mr. Haidar told The Leader. Mr. Haidar also quit eating meat and sweets and started taking hormones as cancer therapy.

Why should raw onions cure prostate cancer? While no investigators have ever run a clinical trial (and it is likely none ever will), there was an epidemiological study sponsored by Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche "Mario Negri," in Milan, Italy. The researchers found that persons who ate the most onions and garlic enjoyed:

  • 39 to 84% reduction of risk for mouth and throat cancers (in 2521 people studied),
  • 26 to 56% reduction of risk for colon cancers (in 7045 people studied),
  • 10 to 25% reduction of risk for breast cancers (in 6020 women studied),
  • 22 to 73% reduction of risk for ovarian cancer (in 3442 women studied), and
  • 19 to 71% reduction of risk for prostate cancer (in 2745 men studied).
The large numbers of people involved in the studies suggest that the results are not a fluke, although the exact effect of onions are garlic could not be determined (hence the probability ranges). The greatest reduction in cancer risk was found in people who consumed at least 7 servings of onions and garlic weekly. A serving of onion is at least 80 grams (a little less than 3 oz) of onions, and a serving of garlic was at least one clove.

The Italian researchers did not know which chemical in onions and garlic might protect against cancer. They even speculated that perhaps people who lead healthier lifestyles just happen to eat more onions and garlic.

So should you buy a truckload of breath mints and start eating onions and garlic to prevent or treat cancer? Mr. Haidar would tell you the answer is a definite yes. The scientific data to date, however, only suggest that it definitely won't hurt and might actually help, assuming your loved ones and friends either have a limited sense of smell or enjoy their onions and garlic, too.


Carlotta Galeone, Claudio Pelucchi, Fabio Levi, Eva Negri, Silvia Franceschi, Renato Talamini, Attilio Giacosa and Carlo La Vecchia. Onion and Garlic Use and Human Cancer. merican Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 84, No. 5, 1027-1032, November 2006.

"Forget Bad Breath: Onions Bring Joy of Life to Cancer Sufferer," Simone Roberts, The Liverpool Leader, 1 May 2011.

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