Fighting Cancer With A Fork

Approximately 1.8 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer this year, and more than 600,000 will die from it. But there are ways to protect yourself. American Cancer Society researchers estimate that at least 42% of new cancer cases may be avoidable , with 18% being related to lifestyle factors like diet and physical activity.

Foods contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber and phyto- chemicals that help prevent DNA damage or assist in its repair. These substances are particularly found in plant foods and appear to work together in ways that provide the protection from certain cancers.  

Attempt to prevent cancer by giving large groups of people vitamin supplements or phytochemical extracts thought to account for the plants beneficial effects on cancer development have not been successful. In fact, a number of studies have noted that more harm than good results from the use of high amounts of individual supplements such as vitamin C, beta carotene, and vitamin E. Particular types of food clearly provide greater levels protection against cancer than supplements.

One major role plant foods play in reducing cancer risk appears to be related to the antioxidant function of certain vitamins and chemicals. These antioxidants in food neutralize reactive oxygen and other molecules to prevent them from damaging the DNA and also to repair DNA when necessary. Many brightly colored vegetables and fruits contain phyto – chemicals that act as antioxidants, and their consumption is being encouraged. Taking antioxidants as supplements have not been shown to have the same beneficial effects as those found in foods. It is thought that these chemicals work best synergistically.

There are other ways that some phytochemicals help to fight cancer formation. Vegetables from the cruciferous family for example broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower, appear to turn off genes that help produce proteins that increase the ability of cancer cells to grow blood vessels that support the continued spread of cancer. Substances in food that reduce inflammation may also decrease cancer risk by reducing the number of oxidized particles in cells that can damage DNA.

Dietary patterns and lifestyles related to reduced cancer risk

  • Consume a plant-based diet that includes five plus servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits daily, including those that are dark green, orange, and red.
  • Consume 3 plus whole grain products daily.
  • Regularly consume dried beans nuts and seeds.
  • Include fish and seafood lean beef, chicken, pork and other meats.
  • Avoid alcohol in excess.
  • Include 30 minutes 5 plus days a week of physical activity.
  • Maintain normal weight.

What does recent research say? From Eating Well Magazine, Nov. 2020

Consume more soy.  Studies have shown that flavonoids in plants like soy can alter certain aspects of cells related to tumor growth.  These flavonoids may protect against hormone related cancers like breast cancer. One recent analysis in the International Journal of Cancer looked at data from Chinese women enrolled in the Shanghai Women’s Health study and found that those who reported eating high amounts of soy in adulthood had a lower chance of both pre and post-menopausal breast cancer than those who rarely ate this nutrient packed legume.

Eat red and purple. The antioxidant called anthocyanin found in red, blue, and purple fruits and vegetables may also have anti cancer properties. One trial in Cancer Prevention Research had 25 colo rectal cancer patients ingest varying levels of anthocyanins before their surgery dates. The scientists found a 7% drop in tumor proliferation in patients with the higher anthocyanin consumption doses.   

Increase the Fiber. A systematic review and meta analysis published earlier this year in the journal Cancer found that participants in the US who ate the most fiber had a 8% lower risk of breast cancer than those who consume the least. The researchers noted that fiber rich foods like whole grains, fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts and seeds as part of an overall healthy diet may protect against the disease by leveling post meal blood glucose spikes and improving insulin sensitivity. Fiber also increases the activity of compounds that lower circulating estrogen levels in the body. Another reason is that the nutrient has been linked to a reduced risk of colon cancer.

More About Diet and Cancer Relationships

Specific characteristics of diets that have been linked to the development of cancer include low vegetable and fruits intake and a lack of variety of vegetables and fruits excess alcohol intake, or more than one drink a day by women 2 drinks a day by men is associated with the development of a number of cancers of the digestive system. Diets routinely low in whole grain products and fiber appear to promote the development of colorectal cancer. Regular intake of charred meats or the black charred outer parts of high fat meats cooked at high temperatures may also promote DNA damage and cancer development. Other major risk factors for many types of cancer include smoking, physical inactivity, and excess body fat.

Frequent consumption of certain types of foods is sometimes more strongly related to particular cancers than to other types. For example, regular consumption of tomato products is related in particular to decreased risk of prostate cancer, and regular intake of black and green tea appears to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Bogus cancer treatments

Unorthodox, purported cancer cures such as macro- biotic diets, hydrogen peroxide ingestion; laetrile tablets, vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements, and animal gland therapy have not been shown to be effective treatments for cancer. Such remedies have been promoted since the early 1900s. They still exist, although not proven to work, they offer some cancer patients a last ray of hope. They should not be used as a substitute for conventional cancer treatments.

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