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Study links avocados to oral cancer prevention

Can you eat your way to better oral health?

Researchers at Ohio State University have found that nutrients taken from avocados can attack some oral cancer cells and prevent other pre-cancerous cells from developing into actual cancers of the mouth.

According to the researchers, previous research has found an association between the consumption of fruits and vegetables and reduced risk for various types of cancers. This effect is attributed to the high levels of phytonutrients and phytochemicals found in dark colored fruits and vegetables.

Focusing on the Hass avocado– the most readily available variety of avocado– the OSU researchers found that phytochemicals extracted from the bumpy-skinned fruit can target multiple signaling pathways and increase the amount of reactive oxygen within pre-cancerous oral cells, leading to cell death. However, the same chemicals have no negative effect on healthy, normal cells.

"As far as we know, this is the first study of avocados and oral cancer," said lead author Steven M. D'Ambrosio, a member of the molecular carcinogenesis and chemoprevention program at OSU's Comprehensive Cancer Center. "We think these phytochemicals either stop the growth of pre-cancerous cells in the body or they kill the pre-cancerous cells without affecting normal cells."

"Our study focuses on oral cancer," Dr. D'Ambrosio added, "but the findings might have implications for other types of cancer. These are preliminary findings, and more research is needed."

In addition to their possible oral cancer preventive effects, avocados are full of other beneficial phytonutrients and antioxidants including vitamin C, folate, vitamin E, fiber and unsaturated fats.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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