Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past five years, you probably know that eating fruits and vegetables reduces your risk for getting certain types of cancer. Scientists have been slowly unraveling the complex reasons why?primarily, it is because fruits and vegetables contain antioxidant compounds that prevent cell damage. Lutein, a Carotenoid (plant pigment) in the same chemical class as beta-carotene, is one of these compounds. Carotenoids provide the colourful palette of reds, yellows, and greens you see in vegetables and flowers, and even adorn birds, fish, and butterflies.

So what do Carotenoids have to do with your colon?

In a recent study at the University of Utah Medical School, researchers found that of all the many Carotenoids that occur in vegetables, Lutein has the strongest protective effects against colon cancer, and contributes to a better prognosis in certain cases of colon cancer.

The researchers looked at the eating habits of 1,993 patients with colon cancer and 2,410 cancer-free participants, and then used a table of food Carotenoids content to determine how much of the various types of Carotenoids each person consumed.

They weighed this information against cancer occurrence, stage, and prognosis for all study participants. The Utah team found that when a daily diet contains ample sources of Lutein – spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, oranges, celery, eggs, and lettuce and other greens are good sources – men and women are 17 percent less likely to develop colon cancer. In addition, they determined that cancer patients whose colon cancer developed before they had reached the age of 67, or whose tumours occurred further up the colon, reaped the most significant benefits from Lutein.

People in the study were between the ages of 30 and 79. The researchers were unable to draw any significant correlation between the other types of dietary Carotenoids and reduced risks of colon cancer or improved prognosis. However, these other Carotenoids have already shown their ‘colours’ in other ways.

Lycopene, known to protect eyes against age-related disease, also protects prostate cells from cancer (as does Lutein) and is found in: Red, Yellow, Orange and Green Vegetables (especially cooked or tinned tomatoes) – Eat the Rainbow!