A team of researchers, from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in England and Denmark, found the natural pesticide falcarinol reduced the risk of cancer developing in rats by one third.
Although experts have recommended that people eat carrots for their anti-cancer properties, it has not been known exactly what component of the vegetable has this effect. The study results are significant as they could contribute to healthy eating advice for consumers and recommendations for growers and may eventually aid the development of anti-cancer drugs.
Falcarinol protects carrots from fungal diseases, such as liquorice rot that causes black spots on the roots during storage. The scientists investigated the compound after a previous published study suggested it could prevent the development of cancer.
The team found that, after 18 weeks, rats who ate carrots (the popular orange variety) along with their ordinary feed and the group which consumed falcarinol with their feed - in a quantity equal to that contained in the carrots - were one third less likely to develop full-scale tumours than the rats in the control group.
"We already know that carrots are good for us and can reduce the risk of cancer but until now we have not known which element of the vegetable has these special properties,” says Dr Kirsten Brandt, senior lecturer with Newcastle University's School of Agriculture, who carried out the research.
"Our research allows us to make a more qualitative assessment of the vegetables we are eating, rather than quantitative. We now need to take it a step further by finding out how much falcarinol is needed to prevent the development of cancer and if certain types of carrot are better than others, as there are many varieties in existence, of different shapes, colours and sizes".
MEDICA.de; Source: University of Newcastle upon Tyne