World Cancer Day: do anti-cancer foods really exist?
There are very rigorous scientific studies that support the fact that certain foods can prevent the appearance of some types of cancer, World Cancer Day.
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Uncooked dried chickpeas in a bowl.
“It is true that diet can help prevent cancer, but not that there are foods that cure it.
To say that is outrageous.” These are the words of Miguel Ángel Martínez-González,
an epidemiologist at the Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at
the University of Navarra and visiting professor at Harvard University,
author of the book ¿Qué comer? Science and conscience to resist (Planeta, 2020).
“There are very rigorous scientific studies that support the fact that certain foods can prevent the
appearance of some types of cancer, such as breast and colon,
but in no case can it be said that diet can cure it.
” Olga Muñoz, dietitian-nutritionist of the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC), expresses herself in the same terms:
“A healthy diet can considerably reduce the risk of cancer, especially of the colon and breast,
but no food or dietary product for It alone can prevent us from developing cancer,
nor can it eliminate disease progression.
It is true, however, that maintaining a correct nutritional state allows better toleration of the treatments received and, thus,
to have a better quality of life.
”Red and processed meats cause inflammation and therefore we must reduce their consumption Red meat cut into slices, World Cancer Day
The dietician-nutritionist and food technologist Beatriz Robles has the same opinion,
clarifying some questions about the so-called anti-cancer foods or anti-cancer diet.
“It cannot be said that there are anti-cancer foods supported by scientific evidence, but there are lifestyles, including diet ,
that can help prevent the appearance of cancer, in the same way,
that there are foods and lifestyles that increase the risk of suffering it ”
Thus, despite the fact that in recent times a good number of pseudoscientific therapies
have emerged that link diet with the cure of cancer,
there is no type of scientific evidence to support this thesis.
The Association to Protect the Sick from Pseudoscientific Therapies (APETP) warn that
“pseudosciences are statements or practices presented as scientific but that are not supported by evidence of this type,
either because they are metaphysical, because they do not use a reliable method or
because they deny or distort the evidence we have.
In other words, pseudosciences are things that pass themselves off as science but are not really.
Some of the most common for the treatment of cancer and other ailments are,
according to APETP, acupuncture, Ayurveda, the alkaline diet, the macrobiotic diet,
homeopathy, reiki, shiatsu, ozone therapy or Bach flowers, among many others.
From this entity they warn of the danger of this type of therapies, since
“there is a risk that patients abandon effective therapies for practices that lack curative value,
which can cause serious health problems and even death”,
in addition to the fact that they can produce economic and moral damages in patients,
and that, in some cases, some of them can have negative effects on health.
World Cancer Day, A healthy diet can reduce the risk of cancer,
But no single food can prevent us from developing it
“A correct diet will not cure cancer, but it is true that a healthy and balanced diet
will help us meet the nutrient needs and,
therefore, have the strength to face the treatments received and tolerate them better.
In this sense, in the specific case that side effects appear (such as nausea,
vomiting or diarrhea) it is important to inform the medical team so that a dietitian-nutritionist adapts the diet and helps to improve the symptoms and not compromise the nutritional status ” ,
says Beatriz Arranz, prevention technician of the Spanish Association against Cancer (AECC). To this end, the AECC
recommends following some dietary guidelines to prevent the onset of cancer and maintain good health.
“Within a healthy diet, we must encourage the consumption of fruits, vegetables,
legumes and cereals, to be able to be whole. And we must avoid other foods such as alcohol, processed meats and what we call ultra- processed foods.,
highly processed foods, rich in fats and sugars, such as fast food, sugary drinks, industrial pastries… ”,
Explains Muñoz. In the words of Martínez-González, World Cancer Day
“it is about following a classic Mediterranean diet, with a moderate consumption of red meat, which must be alternated with other protein products such as legumes or fish,
in addition to including extra virgin olive oil, which has been shown to have a protective role ”.
Robles adds, for his part, that while it is important to maintain a good nutritional state,
which helps to have a strong immune system, it is not necessary to increase the intake of certain foods to strengthen it if there is no real deficiency.
“If there is malnutrition or malnutrition, our system will be weakened,
but if there is not a nutritional deficit, enhancing the intake of nutrients such as vitamin B6 will not have an impact on our defenses ”.
According to the expert, “it is not correct to think that the more the better in the case of certain nutrients since in some cases the accumulation can even produce adverse effects”.
Regarding the recommended consumption of alcohol, Martínez-González points out that “more research is needed since there are two opposite positions”.
On the one hand, the Mediterranean diet recommends eating a glass of wine a day, although the expert points out that “there is a line that says that it is best to completely eliminate alcohol intake, and in fact it is true that no matter how little it is consumed it’s going to increase the risk of breast cancer ”.
From the Spanish Association against Cancer, they are emphatic about alcohol consumption. “We can only recommend zero consumption.
We are aware that it is a particularly complicated advice to follow due to the presence of alcohol in our society, but it is worth reflecting and trying to reduce it until it is zero “
, says Muñoz, who warns that” this increased risk occurs even when it is consumed in small amounts,
and it multiplies when tobacco consumption is added ”.
“The consumption of certain foods is related to the increased risk of developing cancer,
and alcohol is one of them, the same as processed meats.” In any case,
it is essential “to avoid the so-called binge drinking, which consists of ingesting large amounts in a very short period of time,” explains Martínez-González.
In this sense, the World Cancer Research Fund warned in 2016 that even one drink a day can be related to the development of seven types of cancer: oral cavity, colon, liver, breast, pharynx and larynx, esophagus and stomach .
On the other hand, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology warned that
a single alcoholic drink a day could increase the risk of breast cancer by 5%,
that of the oropharynx by 17% and that of the esophagus by 30 %.
In the case of red and processed meats , the WHO is conclusive. This organism places red meat in Group 2A as “probably carcinogenic”,
which means that there is limited evidence that allows associating the consumption of red meat and the incidence of colorectal cancer.
There is talk of limited evidence when there is a positive association between exposure to the agent and cancer, although other explanations cannot be ruled out.
Processed meat, for its part, is in Group 1, among the agents “carcinogens for humans”,
at the same level as tobacco or alcohol.
The WHO points out that the consumption of this type of meat
has a direct relationship with the incidence of colorectal cancer.
The consumption of some foods is related to an increased risk of developing cancer. Alcohol and processed meats are some of them
Regarding dairy products, “the World Cancer Research Fund does not find evidence that there is a relationship with cancer,
despite the fact that many times it has been published that dairy is not only bad for health,
but can also increase risk of contracting this disease ”, explains, for his part, Robles.
This same organism points out, on the other hand,
“that there is a high degree of evidence that the intake of whole grains and
foods that contain dietary fiber reduces the risk of colorectal cancer”,
continues the specialist.
Martínez-González, for his part, recommends “promoting the consumption of extra virgin olive oil,
eating whole wheat bread instead of white, avoiding industrial pastries and sugary drinks and consuming fruits,
vegetables and legumes in abundance, also eliminating alcohol ”
, As a guarantee to have a healthy diet and a strong immune system .
The expert also recalls that from the Department of Preventive Medicine of the University of Navarra there is an open line of research with Harvard University that has verified
“that there is evidence that coffee , thanks to its mixture of polyphenols, can also reduce the risk of cancer ”.