Diet and Cancer
Not too long ago, within living memory of those now consider aged, cancer did occur, but at nowhere near the rate seen today. The last few generations have seen such an explosion in diagnoses of cancer that people describe it as a cancer epidemic, even though cancer is not contagious.
For many of those who have lost a loved one to cancer, their greatest fear is contracting some form of cancer themselves and they live a life of dread between doctors’ visits.
Worldwide, billions are spent annually on cancer research. Researchers look for causes, triggers, clusters, and commonality. They test drugs, foods and other methods to reduce or remove tumor growth.
Those who lack medical knowledge talk hopefully of a ‘cure for cancer’, as if one day there will be either a surgical procedure or a pharmaceutical product that will magically stop and reverse all the different types of cancer.
Many people have overcome cancer; they usually speak of being in remission, rather than cured; hopefully the remission will last the rest of their lives.
One topic that is frequently discussed is “Can eating the right foods prevent cancer?” A lot of studies as well as self help guides point out to different foods to eat so cancer can be prevented. No just what kind of foods to eat but the means of cooking is also considered important.
Do Processed Foods Cause Cancer
Researchers crunch the data to discover a common theme or cause for the exponential increase in cancer incidence. They are finding that in step, in time is the change of diet in those societies where cancer is increasing.
In so-called advanced societies, over the last eighty years or so, diets have changed dramatically.
What is also entering public consciousness is that the increasing incidence of cancer may also be related to these changes in diet. This does not necessarily mean that diet is the cause of cancer, as the likelihood of contracting cancer may be greatly influenced by genetics and environmental causes.
However, most non-accident maladies have components of both breeding (genetic pre-disposition) and feeding (environmental and dietary influences).
Where once a big health risk was malnutrition or starvation, today it is more likely mal-nutrition – overconsumption of poor dietary choices causing a raft of lifestyle diseases.
A normal diet of rationed servings of mainly vegetables and meat (complex carbs, protein and meat-derived fat) with plain water as the main or only drink has morphed into a normal diet of very large servings of an incredible variety of pre-cooked and processed foods.
Today, every day, in addition to eating some highly processed meat and maybe some vegetables, often containing taste enhancers such as sauces, crumbing, etc. (simple carbs and modified vegetable fats) most people also consume desserts (simple carbs), snacks (simple carbs) with soft drink (more simple carbs) as their main fluid source.
Dietary Links to Lifestyle Diseases
There are indisputable parallels in the dietary changes and the health problems in western societies. Obesity, type two diabetes and cancer appear more commonly to be linked not only to one another, but to diet. Data studies prove that increased cancer incidence is linked to obesity. If type two diabetes is confirmed the incidence is even higher.
Observations of indigenous societies and those who have maintained traditional diets show no noticeable increase in markers for these diseases. Where western influences have changed the diets of others, their disease rates have exploded within a single generation. There is an incredibly strong correlation between diet and the incidence of cancer, as well as diabetes and obesity.
Eating Whole Grains and Reducing Cancer Risks
An increased consumption of whole grains has been found by some studies to greatly reduce one’s risk for developing cancer. Many people do eat whole grains and those who follow the macrobiotic diet, eat a diet that consists of 50-60% of whole grains. Some of these grains include buckwheat, brown rice, quinoa, lentils, corn and rye.
Whole Grains as Good Sources of Fiber
Several studies showed that an increased consumption of whole grains can help reduce the risk for developing colorectal cancer.
This is made possible due to the high fiber content adding bulk to the digestive system, which speed up the digestive process and reduces the length of time that it takes for food wastes to travel into the colon.
This shortened-travel time is beneficial especially if the food waste contains carcinogens as they need to be removed from the body as quickly as possible. As a result, the risk of the lower intestines being affected by these carcinogens will be greatly reduced.
In addition, as fiber is broken down in the lower intestine with the help of bacteria, a substance called butyrate is also produced. Butyrate is known to be helpful for inhibiting the growth of certain types of cancer such as rectum and colon cancer.
Fiber Binds to Estrogen
The dietary fiber found in whole grains also plays a key role in the prevention of breast cancer. This is because fiber has the capability of binding to estrogen.
Having excess levels of estrogen in the body is known to increase the risk of breast cancer. Regular consumption of whole grains helps the liver to filter out estrogen from the bloodstream. Fiber helps expedite the process of removing excess estrogens and prevents them from causing the body harm, thereby helping reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
Whole Grains Contain Selenium
Several studies have shown that a selenium deficiency can increase the likelihood of several types of cancers developing. The amount of selenium obtained from the grains varies depending on the selenium content of the soil where the grains are grown.
An adequate intake of selenium obtained from dietary sources was found to significantly reduce the risk of colorectal and prostate cancers. These types of cancers are two of the most common types of cancer.
A clinical trial showed that a 200mg dose of selenium daily can reduce cancer by as much as 37%. Test tube studies showed that selenium inhibits the growth of tumors and helps ensure that cells die before they become malignant. Selenium is also found to work in synergy with vitamin E in preventing the formation of carcinogens. Another reason why selenium reduces the risk of cancer is because it has the ability to activate a specific enzyme which is responsible for preventing the formation of free radicals.
Grain and Your Insulin Levels
Other studies have shown that the increased consumption of whole grains can help reduce an individual’s insulin levels. Having excess levels of serum insulin can increase the risk for breast, colon and other cancers.
The list of cancer reducing benefits that you can obtain by eating whole grains is quite substantial, especially when whole grains replace highly refined grains in the diet. Individuals need to test their own reactions to a high grain diet, even when whole grain is use, as some people’s systems cannot tolerate high grain consumption.
The Future and You
Relevant studies are ongoing, but research costs money and the big money is to be made in the production, sale and promotion of foods that are based on taste and therefore repeat sales rather than health. Cancer is a disease where prevention is thousands of time better than a cure, as anyone who has dealt with cancer can affirm.
Even if the weight of non-dietary factors is against you, you have the power to massively reduce your likelihood of succumbing to cancer by taking positive control over the food you eat. Anyone who is concerned about avoiding cancer should take steps to largely eliminate simple sugar foods and highly processed foods from their diet. There are plenty of healthy unrefined choices available as replacements.