Currently viewing the tag: "cancer"

Thanks to environmental pollutants, allergens, increased pesticide usage, smoking, obesity, UV radiation, alcohol consumption, and nutrient poor diet, cancer has become the leading cause of deaths across the globe. The number of people diagnosed per year in the United Kingdom and the United States are about 0.3 and 1.5 million respectively.

CancerWe all know that “Prevention is better than cure”, but how many of us are actively managing our lifestyle or actively taking preventive measures to avoid being slammed by cancer? Just knowing and understanding has never been enough. Nutrient poor diet is not only associated with energy exhaustion, stress, fatigue, and irritation as it is linked with the development of many types of cancers.

If your routine diet is lacking essential nutrients (minerals, anti-oxidants, protein, vitamins, healthy fats, and fiber), nutritional supplements helps to replace missing nutrients in the body. These supplements are most effective either to reduce cancer risk by strengthening the immune system and reducing inflammation, or to help ease side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. To date there is still insufficient data on their anti-cancer effects.

Why Nutritional Supplements to Fight Cancer?

Hundreds of world’s leading research institutes are trying to find the answer to cancer prevention/management. Taking the approach of “Prevention is better than Care”, one of their key priorities is to understand the effectiveness of nutritional supplements , and how best to use them.

Nutritional supplements can be put into two groups; anti-toxicity and anti-cancer agents, both widely used among cancer patients. There is a strong recommendation that cancer patients must have an open dialogue with their physicians about using these supplements as the usage needs to be individualized based of various factors such as genetics, tumour histology, and background diet1.

Omega -3 Fatty acids
In a 2015 review, omega-3 fatty acids supplements known for their anti-inflammatory properties may reduce the risk of the development of breast cancer.  The review also concluded that onions and garlic supplements may reduce the risk of the development of cancers associated with our digestive track2. This is particularly true as people who eat a lot of garlic have a lower risk for developing certain common cancers. In laboratory experiments conducted in a 2018 study revealed that garlic extracts can block the growth of some types of cancer cells3.

Curcumin
A 2016 review suggested that curcumin from Turmeric supplements can leads to the death of cancer cells and can slow tumour growth4. A recent review found that it is effective both in vitro and in vivo against cancers of prostate, breast, colo-rectal, pancreatic and head and neck. Its efficacy and safety has been demonstrated in several human clinical studies. The mechanism of action is thought to be via interfering different cellular pathways to either inhibit or induce production of cytokines, enzymes and growth factors. The limitation of curcumin is its poor water solubility, which reduces cellular absorption and oral bioavailability. Chemically it is also unstable. Research is ongoing to try and find an improved delivery system to enhance its effects within the body5.

Vitamin D

Research data published by the National Cancer Institute suggests a possible link between vitamin D and cancer development. Studies on mice cancer cells have found that can slow or prevent the development of cancer including; cell mutation and growth, while at the same time enables cell death and reducing tumour blood vessels from forming. Higher blood levels of vitamin D is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer6.

Green Tea

Green Tea contains polyphenols; a compound with powerful anti-cancer effects. Polyphenols inhibit the growth of new blood vessels in tumours, thus limiting its growth and spread. However for it to be effective one would have to drink 10-12 cups. A study on ovarian cancer found that those who drank green tea were likely to survive longer (after diagnosis) than women who did not. A higher level of consumption was associated with better survival rates7.

Antioxidants

Discussions on the use of antioxidants as an anti inflammatory and for cancer prevention and treatment are still unresolved. However there is sufficient data to suggest that antioxidant supplements including, green tea, vitamin A, C, E and multivitamins can improve quality of life for some patients7.

Some types of cancers can also damage our body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. In such instances, the use of probiotics can help to protect the gut and enhance absorption. Doctors may also prescribe multivitamin and mineral supplements to overcome the nutrient deficit.

Health comes first; and we are solely responsible for taking good care of our body. Adapting a healthier lifestyle is no longer an option as we are constantly battling with life-threatening diseases and health disorders including cancer. Wholesome diet along with nutritional supplements can play a vital role in keeping cancers at bay.

To avoid any risk to your health status, it is not advised to take any type of nutritional supplements as an alternative to cancer treatment without consulting your physician or health professional.

 

References:
  1. Harvie M. Nutritional supplements and cancer: potential benefits and proven harms. Am Soc Clin Oncol Educ Book. 2014:e478-86. doi: 10.14694/EdBook_AM.2014.34.e478
  2. Fabian, C.J., Kimler, B.F. & Hursting, S.D. Omega-3 fatty acids for breast cancer prevention and survivorship. Breast Cancer Res. 2015; 17( https://doi.org/10.1186/s13058-015-0571-6
  3. Petrovic V, Nepal A, Olaisen C, et al. Anti-Cancer Potential of Homemade Fresh Garlic Extract Is Related to Increased Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress. Nutrients. 2018;10(4):450. Published 2018 Apr 5. doi:10.3390/nu10040450
  4. Deng Y, Verron E, Rohanizadeh R. Molecular mechanisms of anti-metastatic activity of curcumin. Int J Cancer Res. 2016; 36(11): 5639-5647.
  5. Tomeh MA, Hadianamrei R, Zhao X. A Review of Curcumin and Its Derivatives as Anticancer Agents. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(5):1033. Published 2019 Feb 27. doi:10.3390/ijms20051033
  6. National Cancer Institute. Vitamin D and cancer prevention. (2013, Oct 21). https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/vitamin-d-fact-sheet.
  7. Parker H. Vitamin and supplements for cancer patients. (2010, Dec 17) https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/cancer-supplements#2
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A longer and healthier life is linked with high-fiber diets. Proof is found around the world in many cultures where a high-fiber diet in a norm.  Studies have found that Ugandans who ate a high-fiber diet escaped many of the common European and American diseases. Similarly Japanese Okinawans have been credited with some of the longest life spans on the planet. Traditional Okinawa diet is low in calories and fat while high in carbs, predominently vegetables and soy products with occasional small amounts of noodles, rice, pork, and fish. With new research we are only just gaining a much greater understanding of the importance of fiber and our health.

A study in 2017  revealed that fiber is closely linked with our gut microbes. Literally, a proper fiber diet feeds our gut bacteria.  Gut bacteria thrive on the right fiber, and multiply both in number and type. Having more microbes in our gut means that the intestinal mucus wall is thicker and better serves as a protective barrier between the body and the gut. It aids in digestion, controls absorption and lowers inflammation in the body.

We now know a lot more about our body’s microbiome. It is not a constant, but changes all the time, even from one meal or snack to another. Eating too much fiber or the same type every day can cause digestive distress e.g. bloating, cramps and blockages. Although, it is useful to note that it is difficult to consume too much fiber.  If you are not used to fiber in your diet then gradually increasing it over a period of time can be helpful. It is important to eat the right types of fiber. A good balance of a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and grains will reflect well on your gut health.

The ideal daily fiber intake should be not less than 25-30gms. In the UK the average intake is around 15gms. In addition to increasing your total dietary fiber content, you can also try to choose food options that have higher fiber content. Different sources have varying levels of fiber content and quality. A good way to measure this is by observing how much water is absorbed. Below are some examples of fiber content of some common foods, based on raw or dry foods.

Food amount equivalent to 10gms of grain fiber

Wheat bran 23gms  (½ cup) Carrots 310gms (3 carrots)
Apricots (dried) 37gms  (½cup) Broccoli 358gms (1large head)
Oats 95gms  (1 cup) Cabbage 466gms (1 medium)
Baked beans 137gms (small can) Apple 500gms (3-4 apples)
New potatoes, boiled 500gms (7 potatoes) Banana 625gms (6 peaches)

A  new analysis published in the Lancet of nearly 250 studies concluded that high fiber diets of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains decreases the risk of  heart disease and cancer. Compared to those who ate very little fiber, those who ate the most fiber reduced their risk of dying from stroke, cardiac disease, colon cancer, stroke, type 2 diabetes by 16% to 24%. Thus more fiber is better. With the addition of every 8 grams of dietary fiber, the disease risk lowered by another 5% to 27%. The best outcomes were when daily intake of fiber was between 25 and 29 grams.

Try some of the following;

  • Choose whole grain foods e.g. replace white bread with whole wheat bread.
  • Replace orange, apple or grapefruit juices, and eat the fresh fruit or vegetable instead.
  • Eat fruit and vegetables (including potatoes) with skin on.
  • Choose high-fiber cereals.
  • Eat more natural, rather than processed foods.
  • Choose romaine lettuce instead of iceberg lettuce.
  • Read food labels to compare fiber content.
  • Add 1-2 Tbsp of bran, ground flax seed or high fiber cereal in your morning cereal.
  • Snack on nuts, vegetables or fruits.

Remember to increase your fluid intake to accommodate the increase in dietary fiber.

 

This is an updated post, previously published on 25 July 2014.
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Flavourings and preservatives have been used for centuries to enhance the taste and freshness of food. Do you wonder if they may be unsafe to eat?, or have you tried to identify all the additives that are in your food ?

Additives are not naturally found in food. They serve a number of purposes;

  • Colours  that add or restore lost colours to food.
  • Preservatives that help protect against food deterioration caused by bacteria.
  • Antioxidants that slow down or stop the oxidative deterioration of foods, e.g. when fats and oils go rancid.
  • Artificial sweeteners which impart a sweet taste for fewer calories than sugar, but also cheaper to use.
  • Flavour enhancers that improve the taste and aroma of food.
  • Presentation and texture enhancers e.g. thickeners, gelling agents, emulsifiers, emulsifiers.
  • Nutrient additions that increase the nutrient value of foods

Without many additives our food may not taste as nice, bread would go sour more quickly. Some foods will no longer be worth eating due to their low nutrient value.

Traditional methods of preservation include; smoking, salting, vinegar and drying are accepted for their long standing safe historical use. The use of additives has to go through a lengthy process to prove that they are safe to use, but despite this there are still many concerns. Below are some of the problems that additives may give rise to.

Allergy

  • Sulphite and sulphur dioxide (E220-28) have been known to cause allergic reactions. Specifically, asthma sufferers should avoid sulphur dioxide gas due to increased sensitivity, but there are also recorded cases of worsening of asthma after drinking soft drinks containing it. They are mainly found in dried fruits, dessicated coconut, relishes and fruit-based pie fillings.
  • Food colours like tartrazine (E102) can cause mild allergic reactions and some studies show that sunset yellow (E1 10) can cause tumours.
  • Annatto, a natural food colouring found in margarine, cheese, smoked fish and cakes is implicated in allergic reactions and irritable bowel.

Cancer

  • Aspartame (E951) has been linked to various cancers(1,2,3), although studies by US National Cancer Institute and European Food Safety Authority concluded that it did not increase the risk of cancers.
  • Erythrosine is a red food colour. Research has highlighted concerns about its potential tumour formation and inhibition of the normal functioning of the thyroid.
  • Allura red has been associated with cancer in mice but evidence is not consistent.
  • Nitrites and nitrates (E249-52) may convert to potentially carcinogenic nitrosamines.

Hyperactivity

  • Although a definitive link has not yet been established food colours like, sunset yellow (E110), quinoline yellow (E104), carmoisine (E122), allura red (E129), tartrazine (E102) and ponceau 4R (E124) have been associated with hyperactivity in some children. These are commonly found in a variety of processed foods, especially in children’s sweets, confectionary, squashes, soft drinks, jams and cakes. Prevalence of hyperactivity is estimated to be about 2.5%.
  • Aspartame has also been linked with changes in behaviour.

Headaches

  • MSG (monosodium glutamate- E621) is a flavour enhancer can cause headaches in some people. Although in a recent review there was no conclusive direct evidence.
  • Aspartame is also linked with causing headaches.

Other


The Bottom Line

Additives are overused in the processed foods industry, so try to avoid them as much as possible.

  • Keep processed foods to a minimum, including sweets, lollies, soft drinks and cakes.
  • Be careful of foods that are presented as low-fat, sugar-free as majority will contain some form of additive.
  • Not everyone reacts to additives in the same way. If you experience signs of reacting to certain foods, then minimise or avoid eating it.
  • If your child shows signs of hyperactivity of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) then eliminating some colours from their diet may prove beneficial.
  • Always read food labels to be fully aware of what you are buying.

 

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If there is one New Year’s resolution that we should all make is, drastically reduce the amount of sugar we have in our diet. Why ?…. because it is strongly linked with causing cancer. Shockingly this was discovered in a study nearly 50 years ago – but since the research was funded by the sugar industry the results were never published.

Most of us enjoy a sweet treat, but many are addicted to the taste of sugar.  Sugar has been linked to the development of diabetes and heart disease. In 2016 a study on mice linked high sugar intake with an increased risk of breast cancer. Previous studies have highlighted an increased risk of endometrial cancer in women and colon cancer in men, although clear cut evidence is still forthcoming.

Sugar is everywhere!. Increasingly hidden sugars are a problem. From dried fruits to fruit juice. Clearly, too much sugar is not good for our health but the challenge is how to avoid it. This is especially difficult for those who have a ‘sweet tooth’ and find it hard to abstain. It is essential that the body maintains blood sugar levels within an acceptable range. When it falls too low the energy supply to the tissues is compromised.

Sucrose and fructose, both constituents of table sugar are thought to change cell metabolism and increase cancer activity. Researchers  from VIB and Vrije University in Brussels most recently discovered that a compound found in sugar stimulates aggressive cancer cells helping them to grow faster. This research reaffirms the Warburg hypothesis based on the Warburg effect. The Warburg effect explains that sugar is rapidly broken down by cancer cells as fuel for growth. The reason for the rapid breakdown is because cancer cells are fast growing and therefore greater energy needs. Levels of sugar intake is much higher than healthy cells, and results in the production of lactic acid During the sugar breakdown reaction an intermediate compound is produced which directly activates Ras (a cancer causing protein). The researchers identified a vicious cycle where the Ras protein in turn stimulates sugar breakdown.

This direct link between sugar and the aggressiveness of cancer should not be ignored. However, it does not mean that eliminating dietary sugar will make you cancer free but it will improve chances of a more successful cancer treatment.

Reducing the consumption of sugar as a New Year resolution can be a turning point for improving your health. You cannot control sugars already contained in fruits and vegetables, but you can choose to reduce how much sugar you put in your tea or coffee. Most processed foods will contain sugar. There is more sugar in pre-packaged foods than you think. Always read the label !

 

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