Fruits and Vegetables: A Source of Anti-Cancer Agents
Research conducted over the last several years has in fact shown that several fruits and vegetables that are part of the daily diet of various populations are exceptional sources of phytochemicals, molecules that possess the capacity to interfere with various processes associated with the development of cancer. These molecules occur naturally in very large quantities in many of the foods and drinks in our diet. In fact, a daily intake of a mixture of fruits, vegetables and drinks such as green tea and red wine contains approximately 1 to 2 g of these phytochemicals, which corresponds to ingesting between 5,000 and 10,000 different compounds. These molecules belong to well-defined chemical families, such as polyphenols (flavonoids, isoflavones, catechins), sulfur-containing compounds (isothiocyanates, diallyl sulfides) and terpenes (carotenoids, monoterpenes). Foods in which these molecules are present in large quantities possess a number of therapeutic properties that are analogous to those of synthetic drugs. However, unlike most synthetic molecules whose inherent toxicity limits their use in preventive medicine, the anti-cancer molecules that occur naturally in these foods have been selected by evolution as being beneficial for health and are therefore lacking secondary, harmful effects. It is possible to consume these molecules on a daily basis to prevent the development of cancer. We will refer to these foods as neutraceuticals, a term that underscores their health-enhancing properties.