Variation and Moderation
Broccoli, garlic, walnuts and red fruit. Regular messages come along about certain foods with which you could lower the risk of cancer. If we count all these studies together, you would almost think that we can prevent cancer altogether. But is that also true?
According to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), 30 to 40 percent (2007 figures) of all cancer cases are caused by a combination of eating and exercise behavior. Overweight is the biggest culprit. Another 30 percent is caused by smoking. This of course does not mean that everyone can get cancer. Heredity, aging and ‘accident’ also play a role in this.
The Cancer Society sees a more modest role for food. They think that about 10 percent (2004 figures) of the cancer cases is caused by food. The National Institute for Public Health (NIH) estimates that there is a connection between 3,000 cancer patients per year between their diet and disease.
Do it yourself
“Many people are not aware of their own part in the prevention of cancer,” says Ellen Kampman. She is a professor of nutrition and cancer at Wageningen University and the Amsterdam VU. “When people think about nutrition and cancer, they start talking about E-numbers, hormones in meat and organic food, and they do not realize that a healthy weight and a healthy diet are more important.”
Both the Nutrition Center and the American Cancer Society (cancer.org) call for a varied diet based on the five-player disc. However, point out the importance of a moderation with saturated fat, salt and alcohol. Caloric food increases the risk of overweight, which in turn increases the risk of cancer (and other disorders). Too much salt in our bodies can damage cells and cause cancer. The guidelines of the American Nutrition Center and NIH are largely in line with the recommendations for the prevention of cancer of the (World Cancer Research Fund International) WCRF.
The WCRF recommendations are as follows:
- Strive for a slim build but avoid underweight.
- Care for physical exercise every day for at least half an hour.
- Avoid drinks with sugar and limit the consumption of high-calorie foods. This mainly concerns processed food with a lot of added sugar, little fiber and a lot of fat.
- Choose a lot of vegetables, fruit, whole grain products and legumes and vary as much as possible.
- Limit the consumption of red meat and avoid eating processed meat.
- If you drink alcohol , limit the daily amount to two glasses for men and one for women.
- Limit the consumption of salt food and processed food with salt (sodium).
- Do not rely on dietary supplements to protect you from cancer.
In addition, the WCRF gives two recommendations for specific groups:
- Give babies the first six months to breast-feed. Then give additional liquid and solid food.
- If you have had cancer and the treatment has ended, then also follow the recommendations for the prevention of cancer.
- Finally, the WCRF stresses the importance of not smoking.
The dietary guidelines are very common up to now. Studies on the individual influence of, for example, garlic and broccoli have only been performed in mice. The effect in humans is still unknown. “A wide use of broccoli fits in a varied diet,” says spokesperson for the Nutrition Center. “But variation remains important.”
According to the American Cancer Society, there are no good or bad foods, but a good or wrong diet. You can eat anything to a limited extent, as long as you provide a varied diet.
Preventing cancer in its entirety through a healthy diet seems unlikely. Nevertheless, there are many possibilities to prevent part of the cancer cases with a healthy lifestyle. So, if you are looking for information about a disease, physical complaint or psychological problem then consult with your doctor or visit hospital specialized in cancer treatments.