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Netlore Archive: Can raw onions absorb germs and prevent flu?

So now! A little fact checking reveals this:

It’s not the onions; it’s how you handle them

According to science writer Joe Schwarcz, onions are in no sense a “magnet for bacteria.” In fact, Schwarcz writes, cut onions contain enzymes that produce sulphuric acid, which inhibits the growth of germs. Onions can become contaminated during handling, but there’s nothing about them that makes them intrinsically more susceptible to bacterial growth or spoilage than any other raw vegetable.

“So unless you have sliced your onions on a contaminated cutting board, or handled them with dirty hands,” Schwarcz explains, “you can safely put them in a plastic bag and store them and there will not be any bacterial contamination.”

Food folklore: Onions ‘attract’ or ‘collect’ infectious bacteria

The notion that onions are a “bacteria magnet” may stem from an old wives’ tale dating at least as far back as the 1500s, when it was believed that distributing raw onions around a residence guarded against the bubonic plague and other diseases by “absorbing the elements of infection.”

But here now is what – Jessie Szalay, Live Science Contributor has to say about the:

Health benefits

Heart health

According to Jarzabkowski, onions encourage a healthy heart in many ways, including “lowering blood pressure and lowering heart attack risk.” A 2002 study in the journal Thrombosis Research suggested that sulfur acts as a natural blood thinner and prevents blood platelets from aggregating. When platelets cluster, the risk for heart attack or stroke increases. This research further supports a similar 1992 study in Thrombosis Research that focused on sulfurs in garlic. Furthermore, a 1987 animal study in the Journal of Hypertension demonstrated delayed or reduced onset of hypertension with sulfur intake. However, the authors said more research was needed to determine if this benefit might be found in humans. 

The quercetin in onions may also help prevent plaque buildup in the arteries, which reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. But since most of the studies in this regard have focused on animals, more research is needed to understand the effects in humans. 

Anti-inflammatory

Onions’ sulfurs may be effective anti-inflammatory agents, according to a 1990 study in the journal International Archives of Allergy and Applied Immunology. Quercetin has been found to relax the airway muscles and may provide relief of asthma symptoms, according to a 2013 study in the American Journal of Physiology. 

Immune system

“The polyphenols in onions act as antioxidants, protecting the body against free radicals,” said Anne Mauney, a dietitian based in Washington, D.C. Eliminating free radicals can help encourage a strong immune system. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the quercetin in onions also reduces allergic reactions by stopping your body from producing histamines, which are what make you sneeze, cry and itch if you’re having an allergic reaction.

Cancer

Quercetin may be a powerful anti-cancer agent, according to Jarzabkowski. The University of Maryland Medical Center said that quercetin may especially inhibit cancer cells in “breast, colon, prostate, ovarian, endometrial, and lung tumors.” 

The National Onion Association discussed a recent study from the Netherlands that showed that people who ate onions absorbed twice as much quercetin as those who drank tea, and more than three times as much quercetin as those who ate apples, which are other high-quercetin sources. Red onions are especially high in quercetin, according to the association. Shallots and yellow onions are also good options. White onions contain the least amount of quercetin and other antioxidants.

Digestion

The fiber in onions promotes good digestion and helps keep you regular. Additionally, onions contain a special type of soluble fiber called oligofructose, which promotes good bacteria growth in your intestines. One 2005 study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that oligofructose may help prevent and treat types of diarrhea. The phytochemicals in onions that scavenge free radicals may also reduce your risk of developing gastric ulcers, according to the National Onion Association.

Regulating blood sugar

The chromium in onions assists in regulating blood sugar. The sulfur in onions helps lower blood sugar by triggering increased insulin production. One 2010 study in the journal Environmental Health Insights revealed that this might be especially helpful to people with people with diabetes. People with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes who ate red onions showed lower glucose levels for up to four hours.  

Bone density in older women

A 2009 study in the journal Menopause found that daily consumption of onions improves bone density in women who are going through or have finished menopause. Women who ate onions frequently had a 20 percent lower risk of hip fracture than those who never ate onions.

Health risks

While not especially serious, eating onions can cause problems for some people. The carbohydrates in onions may cause gas and bloating, according to National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Onions, especially if consumed raw, can worsen heartburn in people who suffer from chronic heartburn or gastric reflux disease, according to one 1990 study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

Eating a large amount of green onions or rapidly increasing your consumption of green onions may interfere with blood thinning drugs, according to the University of Georgia. Green onions contain a high amount of vitamin K, which can decrease blood thinner functioning.

It is also possible to have a food intolerance or an allergy to onions, but cases are rare, according to an article in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. People with onion allergies may experience red, itchy eyes and rashes if an onion comes into contact with the skin. People with an intolerance to onions may experience nausea, vomiting and other gastric discomfort.

Lastly, Jarzabkowski encouraged people to make sure their onions are fresh. “Onions keep for a long time,” she said, “but they still spoil.” 

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So now! A little fact checking reveals this:

It’s not the onions; it’s how you handle them

According to science writer Joe Schwarcz, onions are in no sense a “magnet for bacteria.” In fact, Schwarcz writes, cut onions contain enzymes that produce sulphuric acid, which inhibits the growth of germs. Onions can become contaminated during handling, but there’s nothing about them that makes them intrinsically more susceptible to bacterial growth or spoilage than any other raw vegetable.

“So unless you have sliced your onions on a contaminated cutting board, or handled them with dirty hands,” Schwarcz explains, “you can safely put them in a plastic bag and store them and there will not be any bacterial contamination.”

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Food folklore: Onions ‘attract’ or ‘collect’ infectious bacteria

The notion that onions are a “bacteria magnet” may stem from an old wives’ tale dating at least as far back as the 1500s, when it was believed that distributing raw onions around a residence guarded against the bubonic plague and other diseases by “absorbing the elements of infection.”

But here now is what – Jessie Szalay, Live Science Contributor has to say about the:

Health benefits

Heart health

According to Jarzabkowski, onions encourage a healthy heart in many ways, including “lowering blood pressure and lowering heart attack risk.” A 2002 study in the journal Thrombosis Research suggested that sulfur acts as a natural blood thinner and prevents blood platelets from aggregating. When platelets cluster, the risk for heart attack or stroke increases. This research further supports a similar 1992 study in Thrombosis Research that focused on sulfurs in garlic. Furthermore, a 1987 animal study in the Journal of Hypertension demonstrated delayed or reduced onset of hypertension with sulfur intake. However, the authors said more research was needed to determine if this benefit might be found in humans. 

The quercetin in onions may also help prevent plaque buildup in the arteries, which reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. But since most of the studies in this regard have focused on animals, more research is needed to understand the effects in humans. 

Anti-inflammatory

Onions’ sulfurs may be effective anti-inflammatory agents, according to a 1990 study in the journal International Archives of Allergy and Applied Immunology. Quercetin has been found to relax the airway muscles and may provide relief of asthma symptoms, according to a 2013 study in the American Journal of Physiology. 

Immune system

“The polyphenols in onions act as antioxidants, protecting the body against free radicals,” said Anne Mauney, a dietitian based in Washington, D.C. Eliminating free radicals can help encourage a strong immune system. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the quercetin in onions also reduces allergic reactions by stopping your body from producing histamines, which are what make you sneeze, cry and itch if you’re having an allergic reaction.

Cancer

Quercetin may be a powerful anti-cancer agent, according to Jarzabkowski. The University of Maryland Medical Center said that quercetin may especially inhibit cancer cells in “breast, colon, prostate, ovarian, endometrial, and lung tumors.” 

The National Onion Association discussed a recent study from the Netherlands that showed that people who ate onions absorbed twice as much quercetin as those who drank tea, and more than three times as much quercetin as those who ate apples, which are other high-quercetin sources. Red onions are especially high in quercetin, according to the association. Shallots and yellow onions are also good options. White onions contain the least amount of quercetin and other antioxidants.

Digestion

The fiber in onions promotes good digestion and helps keep you regular. Additionally, onions contain a special type of soluble fiber called oligofructose, which promotes good bacteria growth in your intestines. One 2005 study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that oligofructose may help prevent and treat types of diarrhea. The phytochemicals in onions that scavenge free radicals may also reduce your risk of developing gastric ulcers, according to the National Onion Association.

Regulating blood sugar

The chromium in onions assists in regulating blood sugar. The sulfur in onions helps lower blood sugar by triggering increased insulin production. One 2010 study in the journal Environmental Health Insights revealed that this might be especially helpful to people with people with diabetes. People with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes who ate red onions showed lower glucose levels for up to four hours.  

Bone density in older women

A 2009 study in the journal Menopause found that daily consumption of onions improves bone density in women who are going through or have finished menopause. Women who ate onions frequently had a 20 percent lower risk of hip fracture than those who never ate onions.

Health risks

While not especially serious, eating onions can cause problems for some people. The carbohydrates in onions may cause gas and bloating, according to National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Onions, especially if consumed raw, can worsen heartburn in people who suffer from chronic heartburn or gastric reflux disease, according to one 1990 study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

Eating a large amount of green onions or rapidly increasing your consumption of green onions may interfere with blood thinning drugs, according to the University of Georgia. Green onions contain a high amount of vitamin K, which can decrease blood thinner functioning.

It is also possible to have a food intolerance or an allergy to onions, but cases are rare, according to an article in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. People with onion allergies may experience red, itchy eyes and rashes if an onion comes into contact with the skin. People with an intolerance to onions may experience nausea, vomiting and other gastric discomfort.

Lastly, Jarzabkowski encouraged people to make sure their onions are fresh. “Onions keep for a long time,” she said, “but they still spoil.”