Diet and Cancer - is it possible a poor diet may be just as dangerous as smoking? Current research indicates this may actually be the case with an estimated 35% of all cancers thought to be attributed to dietary factors.
Cancer unfortunately plays a large part in today’s society and statistically it is our biggest health concern with one in three people expected to be diagnosed at some stage during their lifetime. The influence of diet and lifestyle factors upon our health has long been recognised and this link is of particular importance when discussing cancers.
It is estimated that
up to 40% of all tumours are potentially preventable with the correct dietary
measures, and while poor nutrition may not be directly responsible for
cancerogenisis it can certainly facilitate and enhance risk. It is therefore understandable
that people are turning towards nutrition and examining their eating habits in
an effort to try and reduce or prevent this genuine risk and in some cases aid
Extensive epidemiological research has focused on identifying factors that either inhibit or facilitate cancer development. Prevention is seen to be a more viable approach than treatment, particularly as a public health initiative. We know there are some obvious risk factors such as genetic predisposition, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and exposure to carcinogenic material; but it has been discovered that excessive energy input, a sedentary lifestyle and the resulting weight gain can too play a significant part.
Of late, the topic of discussion has been poor diet, particularly one high in animal fats, red meat, high GI processed foods, sugars, excessive salts, nitrates and low in fibre, fruit and vegetable intake.
There is a vast selection of foods and healthy habits that can provide a certain degree of protection against specific cancer development. Cancer rates in western society far surpass those of Asian populations and this has proven a fertile area of research directly linking diet and cancer.
We know that certain foods contain phytochemicals and antioxidants that are believed to prevent carcinogens forming and can actively remove cancer causing free radicals from the body. Vitamins E, D3, and C, polyphenols, fibres, folic acid, calcium, soya, selenium and polyunsaturated fat acids such as Omega-3 are all beneficial elements. It is not necessarily obscure ‘superfoods’ or specific dietary inclusions that provide the best defence.
Significant dietary studies have indicated that controlling lifestyle factors such as weight and exercise and simply eating a healthy balanced diet high in fibre and low in animal and trans fats, while including a wide selection of fresh wholefoods rather than processed material can forestall tumour development dramatically.
A healthy diet should contain an extensive variety of:
· fresh fruits and vegetables
· nuts, whole grains and legumes
· soya and moderate amounts of lean red meat
fish and poultry as a protein source
There are particular foods that lend themselves to higher
concentrations of valuable anticarcinogenic properties such as green tea, but
research indicates the best protection is generated by a balanced diet, sourced
primarily from fresh minimally processed foods.
Whether you believe there is a link between diet and
cancer or not, it wouldn’t hurt to improve our eating habits!
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