Red onions aren’t just an essential cooking ingredient, they could also be a vital tool in the battle against cancer.
University of Guelph scientists carried out a study which looked to discover which onions had the best cancer-fighting properties and discovered one in particular packed a powerful punch.
The Ruby Ring, in particular the Ontario-grown variety, was shown to have the highest levels of a particular type of flavonoid.
To test how effective the onions were the research team placed colon cancer cells in direct contact with quercetin extracted from the Ruby Ring variety.
“We found onions are excellent at killing cancer cells,” said study author PhD student Abdulmonem Murayyan. “Onions activate pathways that encourage cancer cells to undergo cell death. They promote an unfavourable environment for cancer cells and they disrupt communication between cancer cells, which inhibits growth.”
The researchers also found the onion cells were also just as capable of killing breast cancer cells.
To truly test its cancer-fighting capabilities the team’s next step will be human trials.
The key to this will be in extracting the quercetin in large enough quantities that it can be used medicinally.
“This new method that we tested to be effective only uses super-heated water in a pressurized container,” he said. “Developing a chemical-free extraction method is important because it means we can use onion’s cancer-fighting properties in nutraceuticals and in pill form.”
While many of us are encouraged to eat superfoods already, the researchers have bigger plans for the humble red onion. Eventually they hope the extraction method can be scaled up enough to allow them to administer its cancer-fighting properties either through a baked product or in pill form.