LONDON, ENGLAND, September 10, 2004: The growing popularity of Indian food is evident from the increasing number of Indian restaurants opening up across the UK. But it is not merely the lure of the palate that ensures the success of the cuisine, now health benefits will add to the charm of a well-cooked dish. Scientists have found that spicy food could protect the body against damage that leads to cancers, in particular leukemia. Most children in India grow up with the knowledge of the benefits of turmeric, but on Thursday, a childhood leukemia conference in London was told that the root that gives yellow color to Indian dishes is an antioxidant which can protect against environmental chemicals that damage DNA. Scientists now increasingly believe that lower rates of leukemia in Asia may be due to the difference in diet. Turmeric is also said to slow the rate of diseases such as Alzheimer's and to possess anti-inflammatory properties that could help with Crohn's Disease. Speaking at the conference, Professor Moolky Nagabhushan, of Loyola University Medical Centre in Chicago, said turmeric blocks some of the harmful effects of cigarette smoke, protects against chromosome damage and prevents dangerous chemicals forming after eating processed food. It has been seen that curcumin, the compound that gives turmeric its yellow color, stops leukemia cells multiplying. He said: "Our studies show that turmeric - and curcumin - in the diet mitigate the effects of some of these risk factors." Ken Campbell, of the Leukaemia Research Fund, said leukemia was rare in people of Asian descent. He said: "This suggests that lower rates of childhood leukemia in India, China and Japan may, at least in part, be due to differences in genetically determined susceptibility."