How to prevent cancer

Vegetables and FruitsSix years ago the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute of Cancer Research published the mother of all literature reviews on food, nutrition, physical activity and the prevention of cancer (1).

A panel of 21 world-renowned scientists reviewed the research evidence and drew conclusions based on in-depth analysis of over 7,000 scientific studies published on cancer prevention over the last 50 years.

As a result of this review they made a number of recommendations:

  1. Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight
  2. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes per day
  3. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods and avoid sugary drinks
  4. Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and pulses
  5. Limit consumption of red meats and avoid processed meats
  6. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 per day for men and 1 per day for women
  7. Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt
  8. Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer
  9. Do not smoke or chew tobacco
  10. Breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 months and then add other liquids and foods
  11. After treatment, cancer survivors should follow the recommendations for cancer prevention.

Since then further research has been conducted to see whether compliance with these recommendations has any effect on the risk of death from cancer and other diseases.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on 3 April 2013 (2).

Researchers investigated nearly 380,000 people in nine European countries over 12 years and examined their diet and lifestyle to see how closely they complied with seven of World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research’s (WCRF/AICR) Recommendations for Cancer Prevention.

They found that the risk of dying from several diseases, including cancer, circulatory diseases and respiratory diseases, can be reduced by 34 per cent if these recommendations are followed.

Those who most closely followed the WCRF/AICR Recommendations had a 50 per cent reduced chance of dying from respiratory disease, 44 per cent for circulatory disease and 20 per cent for cancer, when compared to the group with the lowest level of compliance.

The Recommendations with the greatest impact on reducing the risk of death from disease were being as lean as possible without becoming underweight (22 per cent reduced risk) and eating mostly plant foods (21 per cent).

In terms of cancer, limiting alcohol consumption and following the plant food recommendation reduced the risk of dying from the disease by the greatest margin, at 21 per cent and 17 per cent respectively.

The study is the first to examine breastfeeding as part of a combination of lifestyle changes to see what effect it has on risk of dying.  It showed that women who breastfed for at least six months had a reduced risk of death from cancer (ten per cent) and circulatory disease (17 per cent).

Although the WRCF/AICR recommendations were focused on the prevention of cancer, this study shows that adherence to these recommendations also reduces the risk of other diseases.

The bottom line is that maintaining a lean body by consuming a predominantly plant-based diet, being physically active and minimising intake of alcohol is most likely to protect you from cancer.  Looking after yourself in this way will also help to reduce your risk of circulatory and respiratory diseases.

If you would like to learn about how to introduce more plant-based dishes into your diet why not sign up for free email updates with information, recipes and news and visit my website at http://www.cookingforhealth.biz.

You can also stay in touch by joining me on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn.

References

1. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. Washington DC : AICR, 2007.

2. Adherence to the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research guidelines and risk of death in Europe: results from the European Prospective Investigation into Nutrition and Cancer cohort study. Anne-Claire Vergnaud et al. 3 April 2013, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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Guest Blog – Nutrition and Cancer

Today my Guest Blogger is Jillian McKee, who has worked as the Complementary Medicine Advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance since June 2009.  Bringing a wealth of personal and professional experience to the organization, Jillian spends most her time on outreach efforts and spreading information about the integration of complementary and alternative medicine when used in conjunction with traditional cancer treatment.

Jillian’s article is about the benefits of eating healthy during and after a diagnosis of any kind of cancer.

Why Cancer and Nutrition Go Hand-in-Hand

If you have recently been diagnosed with cancer, you are more than likely very distraught and aggravated.  Receiving this type of diagnosis is one of the most difficult things that anyone can hear from their doctor.  Thankfully, there is a way to improve your well-being while undergoing cancer treatment.  The best way to improve your life during this time is to incorporate proper nutrition into your daily routine.  A healthy diet has a number of benefits that you may not even be aware of.  Proper nutrition can improve the well-being of individuals who are both sick and healthy, so it is a good idea to make some changes as soon as possible.

Many people may claim that the right diet can actually be a cure for cancer.  While thousands believe this to be true, it is more important to realize that proper nutrition will help you on your journey to wellness while undergoing routine cancer treatments.  Cancer treatments, such as those that accompany mesothelioma, will leave you feeling sick and drained.  The right diet will help to get you on your feet by boosting your energy levels throughout the day.  You may even be surprised to see how much energy you have after incorporating the right meal plan into your life.

Another benefit of a high quality diet that many people do not know is that it improves daily functions.  Good foods, like fruits and veggies, are literally packed with vitamins and essential minerals.  These vitamins are what your body needs to heal itself and support these functions.  You may notice that the right diet puts you in a better mood and gives you a sense of peace that no processed food could ever do.  Natural and wholesome foods can be added to your diet so that you are getting the recommended calories and vitamins for that particular day.

Before making changes to your current diet, you should make an appointment with your doctor to discuss these things.  While it is easy to make quick changes to a diet plan, your doctor will be able to advise you on different things that you need to avoid or get more of for that day’s consumption.  For example, most cancer patients need to have a high amount of calories each day to prevent excessive weight loss.  Only your doctor will be able to tell you how many calories is enough to support your daily functions on a regular basis.

The best thing to remember about nutrition for mesothelioma and other forms of cancer is that good foods can help you on this journey that you are taking.  Proper nutrition will help to improve energy levels, give you a sense of well-being, and help you to heal after treatments faster than living on a diet of processed junk food.  If you feel that a proper diet is the best thing for you at this point, be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor to see what they can recommend and advise you on when it comes to making these types of changes.

For more information about the link between nutrition and health please visit Cooking for Health.

Colon cancer, gut microbes and your diet

A typical Western diet, rich in meat and fats and low in complex carbohydrates, is a recipe for colon cancer, Professor Stephen O’Keefe from the University of Pittsburgh, USA, told the Society for General Microbiology meeting at Harrogate today (Tuesday 31 March). He described an expanding body of evidence to show that the composition of the diet directly influences the diversity of the microbes in the gut, providing the link between diet, colonic disease and colon cancer.

complexcarbs1

People eating a healthy diet containing high levels of complex carbohydrate (e.g., whole grains like wholewheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, millet, vegetables, fruit) had significant populations of micro-organisms in their gut called Firmicutes. These bacteria use the undigested residues of starch and proteins in the colon to manufacture short-chain fatty acids and vitamins such as folate and biotin that maintain colonic health. One of these fatty acids, butyrate, not only provides most of the energy to maintain a healthy gut wall, but it also regulates cell growth and differentiation. Both experimental and human studies support its role in reducing colon cancer risk.

However, gut microbes may also make toxic products from food residues. Diets high in meat will produce sulphur – this decreases the activity of ‘good’ bacteria that use methane and increases the production of hydrogen sulphide and other possible carcinogens by sulphur-reducing bacteria.

“Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in adults in Westernized communities.” said Professor O’Keefe, “Our results suggest that a diet that maintains the health of the colon wall is also one that maintains general body health and reduces heart disease”.

“A diet rich in fibre and resistant starch encourages the growth of good bacteria and increases production of short chain fatty acids which lessen the risk of cancer, while a high meat and fat diet reduces the numbers of these good bacteria.” Professor O’Keefe went on. “Our investigations to date have focused on a small number of bacterial species and have therefore revealed but the tip of the iceberg, our colons harbour over 800 bacterial species and 7,000 different strains. The characterization of their properties and metabolism can be expected to provide the key to colonic health and disease”

To learn more about which foods help to maintain the health of your gut and how to cook delicious recipes using them, please come along to a Cooking for Health course, held throughout the year in Somerset, UK.

Fruit and vegetable consumption low across the world

eating-burger_280_528732a1A new study to be published in the May edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine paints a depressing picture of the dietary habits of modern man across the globe.

National Diet and Nutrition Surveys in the UK have found that less than 15 per cent of the population eats the recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day; a similar situation exists in the USA.  It appears that the same is also true in developing countries, where traditional diets are threatened by the introduction of processed food.

A survey of over 200,000 people in developing countries showed that overall 77.6 per cent of men and 78.4 per cent of women consumed less than the suggested five daily servings of produce. 

“Low fruit and vegetable consumption is a risk factor for overweight and obesity, and adequate consumption decreases risk for developing several chronic diseases,” said lead author Spencer Moore. “The release of the 2002-2003 World Health Survey data provided a unique opportunity to examine global differences in low fruit and vegetable consumption in a way that has until now simply not been possible.”

There were wide variations among nations, ranging from 37 percent of men in Ghana who did not meet that standard – to 99 percent of Pakistani men. The researchers saw similar findings in women with the same two countries at the high and low ends of the spectrum.

The prevalence of low fruit and vegetable intake increased with age and decreased with income. This contrasts with findings from the UK where, on average, older people consume more fruit and vegetables than younger people.

family-eating-banana1

Epidemiological studies show that societies consuming high quantities of fruit, vegetables and whole grains are at lower risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancers than those that consume low quantities.  Such societies are often, but not exclusively, in less economically developed parts of the world.  As GDP per capita increases, countries opt for eating more meat, more processed food and less fruit, vegetables and whole grains.  This dietary shift leads to an epidemiological shift – away from infectious diseases and other diseases associated with lack of food, towards chronic noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke and cancer. 

The decline in consumption of fruit and vegetables in developing countries is disturbing as it is likely to give rise to an increase in the incidence of chronic diseases, leading to huge burdens on the healthcare systems of those countries, which may be ill-equipped to cope.

For information and practical tuition in how to create mouth-watering dishes with locally produced fruit and vegetables, come along to Cooking for Health courses held throughout the year in Somerset, UK.

If you are a caterer, or a professional responsible for encouraging healthier catering practices in your community, you will benefit from participating in a two-day training course on Healthier Catering.   By the end of the course, participants will: 

  • Understand the basic principles of nutrition
  • Be aware of the importance of food in the maintenance of health and well-being
  • Appreciate the role of lifestyles and culture in influencing diet
  • Recognise the potential benefits for both caterers and customers of providing a choice of healthier options
  • Know more about ingredient selection and methods of food production and processing that can be used to create healthier options, whilst being attractive and convenient to modern tastes and lifestyles
  • Be able to apply appropriate and relevant skills and knowledge when advising catering businesses or when planning, preparing, promoting and serving healthier foods

For further details about the course content and the course tutor, Dr Jane Philpott, please see http://cookingforhealth-uk.com/healthier-catering.php.

Reference

Hall JN, et al. Global variability in fruit and vegetable consumption. Am J Prev Med. 36(5), 2009.

Over-eating when eating out

Recently, I gave the menu of a well-known chain restaurant to a group of students and asked them to select what they would eat if they were dining there. 

 

They selected a starter (garlic bread with cheese), a main course (traditional lasagne with a salad), a dessert (ice cream) and a drink (a can of coke). 

 

Using the restaurant’s own nutritional information, they calculated the nutrient content of what they had chosen (Table 1).  The results left the students open-mouthed.

 

Their menu selection had provided:

 

n 106% of the guideline daily amount of calories (assuming 2000 kcal per day);

n 141-171% of the guideline daily amount of protein (depending on whether they were male or female);

n 61% of the guideline daily carbohydrate;

n 109% of the guideline daily amount of total fat;

n 192% of the guideline daily amount of saturated fat

n 52% of the guideline daily amount of salt. 

 

It is worth noting that the dietary reference value for salt in the UK is 6 g per day, compared with 2.3 g per day in the USA.

 

Thus, one meal out would have provided more than the entire day’s requirement for calories; enough protein to last for one and a half days; and enough saturated fat to last for two days.

 

Most people have no idea of the nutrient content of the food they are eating, nor of the potentially damaging effects on their health of a dietary excess of sugar, saturated fat and salt. 

 

Given that at least one–third of household expenditure on food and drink is spent on food eaten outside the home in the UK, food manufacturers and caterers have a real opportunity to contribute to an improvement in public health whilst also making a profit themselves. 

 

There is now convincing research evidence to suggest that increasing the amount of fruit, vegetables and whole grains in the diet, whilst decreasing the amount of sugar, saturated fat and salt, helps to protect the body from chronic conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and various cancers.

 

A two-day professional training course is offered, tailored to equip caterers, and those involved in encouraging healthier catering practices, with information and practical tools to achieve healthier eating in the population.

 

By the end of the course, participants will:

  • Understand the basic principles of nutrition
  • Be aware of the importance of food in the maintenance of health and well-being
  • Appreciate the role of lifestyles and culture in influencing diet
  • Recognise the potential benefits for both caterers and customers of providing a choice of healthier options
  • Know more about ingredient selection and methods of food production and processing that can be used to create healthier options, whilst being attractive and convenient to modern tastes and lifestyles
  • Be able to apply appropriate and relevant skills and knowledge when advising catering businesses or when planning, preparing, promoting and serving healthier foods

For further information on the course content and the course tutor, Dr Jane Philpott, please click http://cookingforhealth-uk.com/healthier-catering.php.

 

 

Table 1

Menu item

Calories per portion

Protein g per portion

Carbohydrate g per portion

Total fat g per portion

Saturated fat g per portion

Salt g per portion

 

Starter

 

568

 

29.8

 

35.6

 

34

 

16.5

 

1.15

 

Main course

 

934

 

 

42.2

 

74.4

 

33.1

 

14.6

 

1.84

 

Dessert

 

 

475

 

5.5

 

18.8

 

18.1

 

11.1

 

0.15

 

Drink

 

 

139

 

0

 

35

 

0

 

0

 

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

 

 

2116

 

77.5

 

163.8

 

85.2

 

42.2

 

3.14

 

Gov guideline

 

 

2000 kcal

 

45 g/day (women)

55 g/day (men)

 

267 g per day

 

78 g per day

 

22 g per day

 

6 g per day

 

% of guidelines

 

 

106%

 

171% (women)

141% (men)

 

 

61%

 

109%

 

192%

 

52%

 

 

 

Preventing cancer through diet and physical activity

A new global policy report estimates that approximately 45 percent of colon cancer cases and 38 percent of breast cancer cases in the US are preventable through diet, physical activity and weight maintenance. The report also sets out recommendations for policies to reduce the global number of cancer cases.

 

policy_report_thumb1The overall message of the report, Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention, published yesterday by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), is that all sections of society need to make public health, and cancer prevention in particular, a higher priority.

 

It includes estimates on the proportion of many different types of cancer that could be prevented through diet, physical activity and weight management. In the UK, akmost 40 per cent of the most common cancers could be prevented. That figure does not include smoking, which alone accounts for about a third of cancers.

 

Percentage of cancers that could be prevented via healthy diet, healthy weight and physical activity

 

US

UK

Brazil

China

Endometrium
(lining of the uterus)

70

56

52

34

Esophagus

69

75

60

44

Mouth, pharynx & larynx

63

67

63

44

Stomach

47

45

41

33

Colon

45

43

37

17

Pancreas

39

41

34

14

Breast

38

42

28

20

Lung

36

33

36

38

Kidney

24

19

13

8

Gallbladder

21

16

10

6

Liver

15

17

6

6

Prostate

11

20

n/a

n/a

These 12 cancers combined

34

39

30

27

 

Different Policy Recommendations For Different Groups

As part of the evidence-based report, thought to be the most comprehensive ever published on the subject, two independent teams of scientists systematically examined the evidence for how policy changes can influence the behaviours that affect cancer risk.  Following this, a panel of 23 world-renowned experts made a total of 48 recommendations, divided between nine different but often overlapping sectors of society – called “actor groups” in the report. These actor groups are: multinational bodies; civil society organizations; government; industry; media; schools; workplaces and institutions; health and other professionals; and people.

 

Among the recommendations:

  • Governments should require widespread walking and cycling routes to encourage physical activity.
  • Industry should give a higher priority for goods and services that encourage people to be active, particularly young people.
  • The food and drinks industry should make public health an explicit priority at all stages of production.
  • Schools should actively encourage physical activity and provide healthy food for children.
  • Schools, workplaces and institutions should not have unhealthy foods available in vending machines.
  • Health professionals should take a lead in giving the public information about public health, including cancer prevention.
  • People should use independent nutrition guides and food labels to make sure the food they buy for their family is healthy.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Chair of the WCRF/AICR Panel, said,

When people think of policy reports, they often think they only speak to governments. But the evidence shows that when it comes to cancer prevention, all groups in society have a vital role to play.

Panel member Tim Byers, MD, MPH of the University of Colorado Denver said,

Estimating cancer preventability is a very complex prospect that involves making a number of assumptions. Having said that, the figures in this report are as good an estimate it is possible to achieve about the proportion of cancer cases that could be prevented through healthy diet, regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight. On a global level every year, there are millions of cancer cases that could have been prevented. This is why we need to act now before the situation gets even worse.

The report also includes preventability estimates for the UK (which, like the US, is considered a high-income country), as well as for China and Brazil, which respectively represent low and middle-income countries.

 

Policy Report Represents the Next Step

The new WCRF/AICR Policy Report is a companion document to the expert report Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective, which was published by AICR and WCRF in November of 2007. That expert report evaluated the scientific evidence from over 7000 studies and came away with 10 recommendations for lowering cancer risk.

The 2007 expert report identified the specific choices that people can make to protect themselves against cancer, but actually making those healthy choices remains difficult for many people,” said policy report panel member Shiriki Kumanyika, PhD, MPH, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. The policy report takes the next step – it identifies opportunities for us as a society to make those choices easier.

More information, including video interviews with panel members, Q and A documents, and other background materials, is available at: http://www.aicr.org/policy

Learn how to cook delicious food to boost your immune system and protect yourself and your family from cancer and other chronic diseases at Cooking for Health courses held throughout the year in Somerset, UK.