Cancer and Diet: What’s the connection?
While not all health problems are preventable, but you do have enough control over your health than you might think. Research has found that poor diet and inactivity are important factors that could lead to cancer.
The huge variances in cancer rates among countries and changes over time indicates that few aspects of our lifestyle is essentially responsible for common cancers. Positive energy balance and increased weight as an adult, is a vital factor of colon and breast cancers, consistent with number of studies conducted in animals.
According to The National Cancer Institute, at least 35% of cancers are associated with diet. What we eat, makes a huge difference in our mood and energy levels. Including wide variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet helps maintain a healthy diet and provide a range of various nutrients and help reduce the risk of cancer. Researchers, however, continue to learn how our diet can affect cancer growth and development.
Diet Fact and Evidence
Here are important facts about cancer risk and diet.
- Scientists have estimated that unhealthy diet is likely to develop cancer. About 9% cancer cases are caused due to less healthy diets.
- Very few particular drinks and foods have been shown to reduce risk of cancer. That’s because there are various nutrients and chemicals in our diet that could affect the risk of cancer.
- A research confirms that eating a lots of fruits and vegetables can prevent mouth, bowel, lung and stomach cancers.
- Various studies on fat intake and possibility of breast cancer have suggested that there is a small increased risk of the disease. Although, a research by UK found no connection between fat consumption and breast cancer in middle-aged women.
- A latest study found more than 12% bowel cancers are associated with a low fibre diet. It is recommended that consuming 10 kg fibre in a day can help minimize the risk of cancer by about 10%.
How healthy eating can reduce the risk of cancer?
Perhaps you have heard contradictory reports about preventing cancer. A particular tip in one study is contradicted in another report. In most cases, research about prevention is still in progressing state. Nevertheless, it is well-accepted that chance of developing cancer depends a lot on out lifestyle and diet choices we make. Cancer Research UK suggested that 4 out of 10 cases of cancer can be prevented by lifestyle changes.
So, if you are worried about the disease, simple lifestyle changes can make a huge difference. Try consuming a diet containing:
- Plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Some meat, eggs, fish and other non-dairy source of protein
- Milk and dairy foods
- Starchy foods such as potatoes, rice, bread and pasta
- Small amount of foods and drinks that are high in fat and sugar – biscuits, cakes and crisps
- Cruciferous vegetables like brussels sprouts, broccoli, bok choy and cabbage
The controversy over pesticides and GMOs
Pesticides are ubiquitous and are present at low levels in our diets. According to NIH, effects of pesticides are still unknown.
GMOs, Genetically Modified Organisms, have recently become the most controversial food. Although the FDA claim that they are safe, many food safety advocates emphasize that these products have gone through short-term testing to examine their effects on humans.
Some studies conducted on animals have shown that consuming GMOs may cause cancer. As most GMOs are brought about for herbicide easiness, the usage of toxic herbicides has significantly increased. Some studies indicate that even small amount of pesticides can increase possibility of some types cancers such as brain tumors, prostate cancer and leukemia.
- Parkin, M., et al., The fraction of cancer attributable to lifestyle and environmental factors in the UK in 2010. BJC 2011. 105, Supp. 2, 6 December 2011.
- World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research, Food, nutrition, physical activity and the prevention of cancer: a global perspective. 2007, Washington DC: AICR.
- Boeing, H., et al., Intake of fruits and vegetables and risk of cancer of the upper aero-digestive tract: the prospective EPIC-study. Cancer Causes Control, 2006. 17(7): p. 957-69
- Key TJ et al. Dietary fat and breast cancer: comparison of results from food diaries and food-frequency questionnaires in the UK Dietary Cohort Consortium. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Oct;94(4):1043-52.
- Aune D et al. Dietary fibre, whole grains, and risk of colorectal cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ. 2011;343:d6617.