The Link between Nutrition and Diet and the Development of Cancer How Does Diet Affect Cancer? Many factors influence the development of cancer. Over the last 25 years, science has shown that diet, physical activity, and body weight—especially being overweight or obese—are major risk factors for developing certain types of cancer.
Your body’s ability to resist cancer may be helped by following a healthy diet, staying physically active, and avoiding excess body fat. Study after study suggests that a healthful diet— one rich in a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes (beans), and low in red and (especially) processed meat—can fight cancer.
Researchers have known for some time that this general pattern of eating provides vitamins, minerals, and protective and naturally-occurring plant substances known as phytochemicals (phyto = plant) and can help to defend the body against cancer and other diseases.
The scientific community has identified many naturally occurring substances in plant foods with the power to defuse potential carcinogens. Some of these nutrients and natural phytochemicals seek out toxins and usher them from the body before they can cause cell damage that may lead to cancer.
Others seem to make it easier for the body to make repairs at the cellular level. Still others may help stop cancer cells from reproducing. Even after a cell begins to experience damage that can lead to cancer, what you eat and drink, and how you live can still help short-circuit the cancer process.
Only Eat Organically Grown Foods?
There are many reasons why people may prefer to eat foods grown organically with fewer pesticide residues. Eating foods that contain pesticides could increase cancer risk slightly. However, studies clearly affirm that consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whether grown conventionally or organically, is an important part of a diet that lowers overall cancer risk.
If you decide to purchase organic produce, information from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) may be helpful. The EWG has published The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produc that lists certain foods they call the “dirty dozen plus two” (non-organic fruits and vegetables with the highest amount of pesticides) and the “clean fifteen” (non-organic fruits and vegetables with the least amount of pesticides). The EWG’s
“eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.” The bottom line is to eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grains and beans, whether fresh, frozen, dried, cooked, or canned.
Body Weight and Its Link to Cancer Development:
The link between excess body fat and cancer was one of the strongest findings from AICR’s report and its continuous updates. These comprehensive reviews of cancer research worldwide calculated that approximately 117,000 cancer cases in the United States each year are linked to excess body fat.
Specifically, AICR found that obesity increases risk for at least seven types of cancer: colorectal, postmenopausal breast, kidney, pancreatic, endometrial, gallbladder, and a common variety of esophageal cancer called adenocarcinoma.
For Cancer Prevention AICR Recommends: Be as lean as possible within the normal range of body weight
■ Maintain body weight range within the normal BMI range, starting from the age of
■ Avoid weight gain and increases in waist circumference through adulthood. Avoid foods and drinks that promote weight gain
■ Consume energy-dense foods sparingly (high calories for amount and few nutrients). See Box: What Are Energy Dense Foods?
■ Avoid sugary drinks
■ Consume “fast-foods” sparingly, if at all.
Eat mostly foods of plant origin:
■ Eat at least five portions/servings of a variety of non-starchy vegetables and fruits every day. Examples of a serving: 1 cup raw or cooked vegetables or 1 medium apple
■ Eat whole grains and/or legumes (beans and lentils) with every meal.
Colorful Fruits, Vegetables, and Phytochemicals:
|Color||Phytochemicals||Fruits and Vegetable|
|White and green||Allyl sulphides||Onions, garlic, chives, leeks|
|Green||Sulforaphanes, indoles||Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower|
|Yellow and green squash||Lutein, zeaxanthin||Asparagus, collard greens, spinach, winter|
|Orange and yellow peaches||Cryptoxanthin, flavonoids||Cantaloupe, nectarines, oranges, papaya,|
|Orange||Alpha and beta carotenes||Carrots, mangos, pumpkin|
|Red and purple||Anthocyanins, polyphenols||Berries, grapes, plums|
|Red||Lycopene||Tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon|
Recent research as dramatically changed our thinking about the roll of diet in both prevention and treatment of Cancer. Researches estimate that atleast 40% of Cancers may be related to diet.