Oranges and Bananas Prevent Childhood Leukemia
By Maureen Williams, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (January 27, 2005)—Children who eat plenty of oranges and bananas during their first two years might gain some protection against childhood leukemia, according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology (2004;160:1098–107).
Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow that impairs production of all of the blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. With 2,000 to 3,000 children diagnosed each year, leukemia is the most common form of cancer affecting children, representing about 30% of all cases. Childhood leukemia is characterized by bone pain, fever, fatigue and pale complexion due to anemia (low number of red blood cells), and easy bruising due to low numbers of platelets in the blood. Several studies have looked for a link between intake of carcinogenic compounds, such as nitrosamines found in hot dogs and other cured meats, and the risk of childhood cancers, including leukemia; however, results have been inconsistent. Little is known about the impact of other dietary patterns and the risk of childhood leukemia.
The current study, called the Northern California Childhood Leukemia Study, compared the diets of 328 children diagnosed with leukemia between ages 2 and 14 with the diets of matched children who did not have leukemia. Matches were made based on age, gender, ethnicity, and the region where the child lived. Mothers of children in the study answered a questionnaire concerning the frequency of their child’s intake of specific foods, food groups, and vitamin supplements from birth until age 2. Questions about intake of hot dogs/lunch meats, beef/hamburger, vegetables, oranges/bananas, apples/grapes, orange juice, fruit juice, milk, and soda were part of the questionnaire. Childhood leukemia risk was 51% lower in children who ate oranges/bananas regularly than in children who ate them rarely or never. Drinking orange juice regularly was also found to be protective, dropping the risk 46% compared with never or rarely drinking orange juice.
The results of this study suggest that consuming oranges, orange juice, and bananas regularly in the first two years of life might protect against childhood leukemia. Oranges are rich in vitamin C, a well-known antioxidant with established anticancer effects, and carotenes, antioxidant pigments that might also have anticancer properties; similarly, bananas are rich in potassium, a mineral that has been speculated to have some anticancer potential. Further research might lead to a better understanding of the specific nutrients that protect against childhood leukemia and lead to a wider array of foods recommended for an optimal diet. Based on the current findings, mothers can be encouraged to feed their young children a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, especially oranges and bananas.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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