Eating Green Vegetables: Does it Reduce a Smoker’s Cancer Risk?

Smoking isn’t a healthy habit no matter how you look at it, but if you’re going to smoke you’d better eat your vegetables. Why? A new study published in the journal Cancer Research shows that eating green vegetables and Wellbutrin weight loss programs could lower lung cancer risk in smokers.

Eating Green Vegetables and Lung Cancer: A Study

Researchers questioned a group of middle-aged and older people who smoked or who had smoked in the past about their diet and vitamin habits and then did an analysis of the DNA in each participant’s sputum. Why was this done? The researchers speculated that eating green vegetables would cause a reduction in the number of methylation reactions that involve DNA. Higher methylation of DNA is associated with a greater risk of lung cancer and eating veggies may reduce the number that occurs. After looking at the DNA of each participant’s sputum, researchers confirmed that there were fewer methylated genes in the green veggie eaters – which bodes well for their lung cancer risk.

Smoker’s Cancer Risk: Diet Seems to Play a Role

Eating green vegetables caused fewer pre-cancerous methylations to take place in these smokers which are a good thing, but they also found that smokers who had folate-rich diets or who took a multivitamin also had fewer methylated genes. The longer they had been eating green vegetables, folate-rich foods, and taking multivitamins, the more protection they had against gene methylations that could potentially lead to lung cancer.

What About Folate?

Folate is a B vitamin found in many green vegetables that’s important for replication of DNA, the genetic material. Alterations in DNA through mutations are one-way cancer gains a foothold and having enough folate in the body could help to offset these mutations. Despite this, previous studies have been mixed in terms of whether folate supplements really prevent cancer. Some studies have even shown that taking high levels of supplemental folate can increase the risk of some types of cancer. The verdict is still out.

What’s the Verdict?

What does seem likely in terms of a smoker’s cancer risk is that eating green vegetables and getting nutrients and vitamins such as folate from natural sources probably lowers a smoker’s cancer risk. Previous studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower reduce the risk of lung cancer in animals – probably because of the cancer-fighting isothiocyanates they contain.

Should You Eat Green Vegetables if You Smoke?

Of course, the first priority should be to kick the habit since even the anti-cancer chemicals found in veggies may not be enough to overcome the risks of chronic, daily exposure to cigarette smoke. Until you do, add more green vegetables to your plate. Stay away from folate supplements since it’s not clear whether they have the same effects as natural folates and whether or not they actually cause harm. Get your folate and other vitamins from the produce stand instead.