By Mark Waghorn via SWNS
Eating plenty of guacamole may keep cancer at bay, according to new research
Avocados - the main ingredient in the trendy dip - are rich in immune system-boosting magnesium.
The key mineral is also abundant in greens, wholemeal bread, nuts and brown rice.
Levels are an important factor in the body's ability to stave off tumours and infections.
The study in Cell could have important implications for patients, say scientists.
Killer "T cells" are the body's main weapon - destroying cancer cells directly.
But lab experiments showed they are only effective in a magnesium-rich environment.
Specifically, the nutrient triggers a protein called LFA-1 that acts as a docking site on the surface.
Co-author Professor Christoph Hess, of Basel University in Switzerland, explained: "In the inactive state this docking site is in a bent conformation and thus cannot efficiently bind to infected or abnormal cells.
"This is where magnesium comes into play. If magnesium is present in sufficient quantities in the vicinity of the T cells, it binds to LFA-1 and ensures it remains in an extended - and therefore active - position."
Being low in magnesium increases the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis - and even Alzheimer's.
Animal studies have shown cancerous growths spread faster - and flu viruses are harder to overcome.
Now the international team - including experts at Cambridge - have shown for the first time how the mineral affects the immune system.
Discovering magnesium is essential for T cells opens the door to improving modern cancer immunotherapies.
These treatments are aimed at fighting the disease by mobilising them into action.
In tests, the immune response against tumours was strengthened by an increase in local magnesium concentrations.
Prof Hess said: "In order to verify this observation clinically we're now looking for ways to increase magnesium in tumours in a targeted manner."
The promising results were confirmed by analysing data on actual cancer patients.
It found immunotherapies were less effective in those with insufficient levels of magnesium in their blood.
Lead author Dr. Jonas Lotscher, also from Basel, said whether a regular intake of magnesium reduces risk of developing cancer needs further investigation.
He said: "As a next step we're planning prospective studies to test the clinical effect of magnesium as a catalyst for the immune system."
The mineral also improves muscle and nerve function and makes proteins, bone and DNA.
Other healthy foods high in magnesium include lentils, beans, tofu, seeds, oily fish, bananas and dark chocolate.
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