Good Food/Good Health
Week of February 28, 2005

 A New Front In The War On Cancer

from the
American Institute for Cancer Research

Whole grains are even better than we thought.

New research reported by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) shows that whole grains like corn, whole wheat, oats and brown rice have powerful antioxidants cancer-fighting agents that have gone undocumented for years. Whole grains, the study found, exhibit a level of anti-cancer activity that is equal to, and sometimes greater than, the level known to occur in vegetables and fruits.

The finding may begin to clear up one of the most controversial and confusing questions in contemporary diet-cancer science: the role of high-fiber diets in lowering colon cancer risk. For years, scientists have wondered why people whose diets are high in fiber-rich whole grains consistently have lower risk for colon cancer. Yet short-term clinical trials involving small groups of subjects yield inconsistent results.

The answer may lie in the fact that clinical trials tended to overlook a role for whole grains and focused instead on the role of fiber alone in lowering colon cancer risk. The new research suggests that future clinical studies would benefit from a broader perspective one that accounts for the collective, interactive effects of whole grains themselves, the fiber they contain, and the various protective substances now revealed.

The finding underscores the need for Americans to choose whole grains whenever they can. Some simple adjustments in shopping and cooking can help. Use whole-wheat pasta, ask for brown rice at an Asian restaurant, make sure any bread you eat is 100 percent whole grain.

Of the whole grains tested, corn had the highest total antioxidant activity, followed by whole wheat, oats and brown rice.

The scientists involved in the new study say that the key to whole grain’s enormous cancer-fighting potential lies in its very wholeness. A grain of whole wheat is composed of three parts: endosperm, bran and germ. When wheat or any grain is refined, the bran and germ where most of the protective phytochemicals and fiber are stored are removed.

These new findings may partially explain why diets high in whole grains can help reduce the incidence of colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

This study reinforces AICR’s commitment to meals with variety. Different plant foods have different phytochemicals. To ward off disease, the body needs synergy or teamwork among the various foods on your plate, including whole grains.

Brown Rice Salad with Peas and Red Pepper

1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 cups long grain brown rice, cooked
1 small red pepper, diced
1 small bunch watercress, chopped
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. pine nuts

Microwave peas on high for 1 minute. In a medium salad bowl, combine peas, brown rice, red pepper and watercress. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, rice vinegar and garlic. Add to rice mixture, tossing well to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with pine nuts.

Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 118 calories, 5 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat), 15 g. carbohydrate, 3 g. protein, 2 g. dietary fiber, 19 mg. sodium.

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The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) offers a Nutrition Hotline online at or via phone 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, MondayFriday, at 1-800-843-8114. This free service allows you to ask questions about diet, nutrition and cancer. A registered dietitian will respond to your email or call, usually within 3 business days. AICR is the only major cancer charity focusing exclusively on how the risk of cancer is reduced by healthy food and nutrition, physical activity and weight management. The Institute’s education programs help millions of Americans lower their cancer risk. AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers across the U.S. Over $75 million in funding has been provided. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

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