Ex­perts weigh in on what to eat and what to avoid to re­duce the can­cer risk.

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While the statis­tics sur­round­ing breast can­cer – one in 12 women will be di­ag­nosed in their life­time and more than 1.7mil­lion are di­ag­nosed glob­ally each year – are shock­ing enough to make most of us lose our ap­petites, there is a huge un­der­ly­ing prob­lem in­creas­ing the risk of de­vel­op­ing the dis­ease: an un­healthy diet.

Re­cent re­search pub­lished in the re­spected med­i­cal jour­nal Can­cer sug­gests that in a large num­ber of cases, suf­fer­ers have one thing in com­mon– a die thigh in sat­u­rated fat and sodium and not enough fi­bre.

In the US-based study con­ducted over 10years, re­searchers an­a­lysed the di­ets of 1,533 peo­ple who had been treated for can­cer. They com­pared the qual­ity of what they ate to the di­ets of more than 3,000 ran­domly se­lected peo­ple who had never been di­ag­nosed with the dis­ease.

Ex­perts were sur­prised to note that the can­cer sur­vivors ate less fi­bre and more sat­u­rated fat and foods high in sugar and sodium. Their vi­ta­min Din take was lower– just 31 per­cent of the rec­om­mended amount –along with vi­ta­min E, which was just 47 per cent ofwhat’s rec­om­mended.

‘Di­etary changes that in­clude more fi­bre, fruit and veg­eta­bles and less fat, sodium and added sugar would be im­por­tant for can­cer sur­vivors,’ con­cluded Fang Fang Zhang, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at Fried­man School of Nu­tri­tion Sci­ence and Pol­icy at Tufts Univer­sity, and lead author of the study.

So while surgery, chemo and ra­dio­ther­apy can dras­ti­cally in­crease sur­vival rates once can­cer is de­tected, it is bet­ter to pre­vent the dis­ease from oc­cur­ring than cure it. One of the places where this can hap­pen is in the kitchen.

‘Im­prov­ing your diet and life­style can help re­duce risk of can­cers in­clud­ing breast can­cer,’ says Vic­to­ria Tip­per, nu­tri­tion coach at Dubai Herbal & Treat­ment Cen­tre. Tip­per quotes fig­ures from the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, which de­ter­mined that di­etary fac­tors ac­count for at least 30per cent of can­cer cases in the West and 20per cent in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

Like­wise, Can­cer Re­search UK says we­may pre­vent nine per cent of can­cer cases, in­clud­ing breast can­cers, just by chang­ing di­ets, while five per cent of all can­cers could be avoided by main­tain­ing a healthy body­weight.

Vic­to­ria gives the ex­am­ple of ‘Ja­panese women, who­have a lower risk of de­vel­op­ing breast can­cer than Amer­i­can­women’. Ex­perts be­lieve it’s be­cause their diet con­tains a lot of fish, which has an­ti­in­flam­ma­tory omega-3 fatty acids, and fi­bre that helps cleanse the sys­tem.

‘But as soon as Ja­panese women leave their coun­try and move to the West, where their diet and life­style changes, their risk of de­vel­op­ing the dis­ease in­creases,’ she adds .‘ In­dulging in a high-fat, high­calo­rie diet com­mon in the US, for ex­am­ple, in­creased Ja­panese women’ s risk to can­cer. This shows that our en­vi­ron­ment and life­style play a vi­tal role; it is not only re­lated to our genes.’

A sub­stan­tial body of ev­i­dence sup­ports the the­ory that can­cer is linked to in­creased chronic in­flam­ma­tion in the body, caused by an un­bal­anced im­mune sys­tem.

‘Wear ev­ery lazy and RE­LUC­TANT to make changes un­less some­thing BREAKS down. But it could take 10 or 15 year sofa bad DIET be­fore WARN­ING signs such as dis­eases start FLASH­ING’

Sev­eral stud­ies con­ducted in the West have con­cluded that such in­flam­ma­tion can pre­dis­pose in­di­vid­u­als to can­cer.

So it is im­por­tant to fol­low an an­ti­in­flam­ma­tory diet, says Vic­to­ria .‘ Cer­tain foods in­crease or re­duce in­flam­ma­tion in the body. Forex­am­ple, foods higher in omega-6f atty acids – sugar, trans fats and pro­cessed foods – are pro-in­flam­ma­tory, but those higher in omega-3 – fish, nuts – are anti-in­flam­ma­tory.’

‘High blood sugar pro­motes chronic in­flam­ma­tion in the body sowe need tomake bet­ter food choices, opt­ing for car­bo­hy­drates that will not cause blood sugar lev­els to rise. It is also wise to to­tally avoid pro­cessed veg­etable oils such as corn, sun­flower, canola, soy­bean, saf­flower and cot­ton­seed oils, which are rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Breast can­cer is linked to chronic in­flam­ma­tion.’

Avoid­ing pro­cessed foods and sub­sti­tut­ing bad car­bo­hy­drates such as white bread, in­stant white rice, and pro­cessed break­fast ce­re­als with health­ier op­tions such as brown rice, quinoa, beans, lentils, sweet potato and pump­kin is rec­om­mended. You should also boost your diet with omega-3rich foods, in­clud­ing fish, milled flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, chia seeds and wal­nuts, adds Vic­to­ria. She also sug­gests step­ping up your in­take of vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, par­tic­u­larly vi­ta­min D.

‘Stud­ies in­clud­ing those by the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia San Diego’ s School of Medicine have shown that be­ing de­fi­cient in vi­ta­min D can in­crease the risk of pre­menopausal breast can­cer.’

While sci­en­tists are yet to con­firm why, Vic­to­ria says the best­way to boost vi­ta­min D lev­els is to ju­di­ciously ex­pose your skin to the sun. ‘Not ev­ery­one is able to ex­pose their skin to the sun as many women in this re­gion dress mod­estly and are veiled. This iswhere sup­ple­ments are ad­vised, but be­fore you reach for the pills you must do a blood test to check your vi­ta­min D lev­els .’

Dubai-based Car­o­line Bienert, nu­tri­tion and detox spe­cial­ist and author of Detox

Body Book, also em­pha­sises the role diet plays in can­cer de­vel­op­ment, as well as its cure .‘ I’m a big fan of preven­tion ,’ she says, ‘but in real life, I have very few clients who come to me be­fore they have can­cer.

‘We are very lazy and re­luc­tant tomake changes un­less some­thing breaks down. But it could take 10 or 15 years of a bad diet be­fore warn­ing signs such as dis­eases start flash­ing. If you’re eat­ing bad foods at least three times a day over your whole life­time, how­can that not af­fect your sys­tem? You don’t have to be an ex­pert to re­alise that. The body is an amaz­ing ma­chine but there is only so­much abuse it can take be­fore it re­acts with can­cer or a dis­ease, which is quite like say­ing “hey, please take care”.’

Isit as easy to change your diet overnight to try to pre­vent can­cer? ‘It might not be easy but you will be en­sur­ing that your im­mune sys­tem will be stronger for the fu­ture,’ says Car­o­line. ‘But re­mem­ber, the old stuff fromthe past is stuck in your sys­tem, there­fore you have to do very spe­cial pro­fes­sional detox­i­fi­ca­tion pro­grammes to clear it up so that you can start afresh.’

Car­o­line uses home­o­pathic, ayurvedic, herbal and tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicines in her ap­proach to cleans­ing. ‘A detox is es­sen­tially like hit­ting are set but­ton on your body and is very im­por­tant.’

Once the body has been cleansed, it’s time to keep it that­way through a per­ma­nent change in diet. (See page 56 for foods to eat and foods to avoid).

And it’s never too early to start. ‘Tak­ing con­scious steps to en­sure the body is healthy is a worth­while for can­cer and other chronic dis­eases,’ Vic­to­ria says.



Can­cer cells thrive in an acidic en­vi­ron­ment so cre­at­ing an al­ka­line en­vi­ron­ment in the body can thwart their de­vel­op­ment. Oneway to do this is by boost­ing veg­etable and fruit in­take as they are al­ka­lis­ing. Veg­eta­bles are also a great source of an­tiox­i­dants, which can help pre­vent the de­vel­op­ment of many can­cers. The an­tiox­i­dant sul­foraphane, found in high doses in broc­coli, is a par­tic­u­larly po­tent detox­i­fier. Try to make sure that at least half your plate is full of veg­eta­bles and in­clude green juices daily. In­fact, vegetarian di­ets are in line with the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety nu­tri­tion guide­lines for the preven­tion of can­cer.


Grass-fed an­i­mals, as op­posed to grain-fed, have a much bet­ter fatty acid pro­file, be­ing higher in omega-3 and lower in omega-6. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-in­flam­ma­tory and great to build up the body’s im­mune sys­tem, which can help fight can­cer, in­clud­ing that of the breast. Pas­ture-fed an­i­mals also have higher lev­els of sat­u­rated fat called con­ju­gated linoleic acid, which has been shown to have anti-can­cer prop­er­ties.


Both gin­ger and turmeric have sci­en­tif­i­cally proven anti-in­flam­ma­tory prop­er­ties and have been shown in mice stud­ies to en­able apop­to­sis of breast can­cer cells by caus­ing themto self-de­struct. Com­bin­ing turmeric with black pep­per and a healthy fat such as olive oil helps ab­sorp­tion in the body.


In­crease your in­take of omega-3-rich foods such as all fish, es­pe­cially oily ones such as wild salmon, mack­erel and sar­dines, milled flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, chia seeds and wal­nuts. Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil have been shown to help breast can­cer treat­ment– a re­cent study demon­strated that flaxseed oil en­hances the ef­fec­tive­ness of cer­tain med­i­ca­tions such as Tras­tuzumab.


Peo­ple should try togo or­ganic to re­duce tox­ins and fur­ther bur­den on the liver.


In­creas­ing the in­take of fish to three times a week will in­crease omega-3 polyun­sat­u­rated fat in­take, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity on breast can­cer. It goes onto say that th­ese fatty acids may in­hibit the growth of breast tum ours.


Soy has been found to con­tain many phy­to­chem­i­cals– plant chem­i­cals that have pro­tec­tive or dis­ease pre­ven­tive prop­er­ties – some of which have been proven in an­i­mal tests to pro­tect against hor­mone-de­pen­dent can­cers. Other com­pounds in soy have an­tiox­i­dant prop­er­ties and­may have an­ti­cancer ef­fects. Ac­cord­ing towww.can­, soy foods may help Tam ox if en–used in the treat­ment of can­cer – work bet­ter.

How­ever, over­con­sump­tion of pro­cessed soy and soy prod­ucts (milks, yo­gurt, tofu, etc.) can dis­rupt the en­docrine sys­te­mand so should be avoided.



Sugar and sweet­ened drinks in­crease the calo­ries in your diet caus­ing un­de­sir­able weight gain. This can af­fect can­cer out­comes by af­fect­ing im­mune sys­tem func­tion, fac­tors that reg­u­late cell growth and hor­mone lev­els, ac­cord­ing towww.can­ Along with sweets and cakes, foods that cause blood sugar lev­els to rise in­clude white bread, white rice and pro­cessed break­fast ce­re­als.


Pro­cessed veg­etable oils such as corn, sun­flower, canola, soy­bean, saf­flower and cot­ton seed oils are rich in omega -6 fatty acids, which­makes thempro-in­flam­ma­tory. They should be avoided as breast can­cer is linked to chronic in­flam­ma­tion.

Fol­low­ing a diet that’s heavy on fruits and veg­eta­bles and low on pro­cessed foods may pre­vent breast can­cer

Fish is an ex­cel­lent source of omega-3 fatty acids that pro­mote good health

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