researchers from the us-based University of California have found that women eating more vegetables, fruits and other foodstuff rich in proteins have less chances of giving birth to children suffering from leukaemia. Among the fruits and vegetables, carrots, string beans and cantaloupe reduce the risk the most, the researchers point out in their paper, published in the journal Cancer Causes and Control (Vol 15, No 6, August 2004).
To hunt down the anti-cancer agents, the team led by Christopher Jensen studied the diet pattern of 276 women. Of them, 138 had given birth to children suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (all). Rest had healthy children (in other words, they were part of the control group). After meticulously monitoring the women's food habits before pregnancy, the team identified levels of glutathione and carotenoids -- two anti-cancer agents -- in their diet. These agents mainly consists of proteins.
Glutathione, a molecule comprising amino acids, acts as an antioxidant (in other words it prevents oxidative damage to healthy cells). Even carotenoids is a molecule having the same function. Both mop up compounds that have carcinogenic effects.
The findings have significant implications for countries like India, as leukaemia is the most common form of childhood cancer in the country. "On an average, six out of every 100,000 Indian newborns fall prey to the disease," informs Kanjaksha Ghosh, deputy director of the Institute of Immunohaematology, Mumbai. "The study reinforces traditional knowledge that healthy eating during pregnancy is good," Ghosh adds. "It also shows that eating fruits could be a cost-effective antidote to childhood leukaemia in India where most people are unable to afford the high cost of treatment," says Prantar Chakrabarti, assistant professor at the Institute of Haematology and Transfusion Medicine, Kolkata.