Nutrition is all about the type of food you eat with the sole aim to provide nutrients that will enhance your growth and overall well-being. Nutrition has a crucial role to play in your health outcomes; as bad or reckless nutrition births poor health outcomes, while good and healthy nutrition births optimum health. The case is not different when cancer comes into the picture, as nutrition has a role to play in its prevention and treatment.
Over the years, cancer has been a rising malignant issue, with breast cancer and prostate cancer being the types of cancer that mostly affects the population; breast cancer for women and prostate cancer for men.
Several studies have shown linkages between nutrition and cancer as the latter has a great impact on the former. Diabetes mellitus and obesity which are often borne as a result of sedentary lifestyles which involve poor nutrition are seen as risk factors for the development of cancer. This is to show how nutrition greatly affects cancer prevention and even its treatment.
Relationship between cancer and nutrition
The risk of cancer can be reduced or decreased by adequately eating a nutritious diet. According to research, most cancer incidence and death occurrences are a result of lifestyle choices; a Sedentary lifestyle. Putting together all the preventive measures to reduce the risk of cancer, eating a nutritious diet remains the bedrock for the prevention of cancer.
A report from the American institute of cancer research in 2019 says that the cases of cancer burden attributed to poor diet were approximately 6 per cent, almost close to the percentage for body weight which is always recorded as the highest case of cancer burden.
Good nutrition such as diets containing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fibres, and poultry helps to reduce the risk of cancer and enhance cancer treatment. On the other hand, nutrition such as a diet containing refined carbs, saturated and trans-fats, and added sugar increases the risk of cancer and disrupts cancer treatment.
How nutrition can prevent Cancer
Cancer can be prevented as much as other malignant diseases can be prevented too. One of the major preventative measures that have been researched and proven to keep cancer at bay is Nutrition, also known as cancer-fighting foods. These foods are nutrient-dense and are mostly recommended by registered dieticians and nutritionists for not only cancer prevention but for optimum well-being. These cancer-fighting foods are also viable for diabetes mellitus and obesity which are risk factors for Cancer.
Following the 2012 American Cancer Society (ACS) guidelines for cancer prevention, below are guidelines that involve diets that tend to reduce the incidence of cancer.
1. Plant-based food: These types of food are gotten from plant sources e.g beans, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. Plant-based foods are said to be less caloric, and natural and do not contain fats and added sugar which are all risk factors for cancer. A study shows that those who consume more plant-based food have their risk of cancer reduced by 15 per cent than those who consume animal-based foods.
2. Less caloric and less fat diets: regular intake of food containing high calories and fat has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Foods such as vegetables, whole fruits, and whole grains( oats and barley) are better alternatives as they are known to prevent cancer. Calorie-dense foods like doughnuts, French fries, and sugar-sweetened beverages should be reduced or avoided depending on the degree of your health.
3. Go for poultry, beans, and fish as a source of protein: Due to a sedentary lifestyle, processed meat and red meat have been chosen billions of times over poultry and fish. These processed and red meat have been linked as a risk factor for cancer as they are seen as carriers of carcinogens. Processed meats are mostly dried with smoke which may lead to the introduction of cancer-causing agents. Processed meat includes pork, sausages, bacon, and hot dogs.
4. Fruits and vegetables are compulsory:
As earlier said, fruits and veggies are low in calories and fat. They are the ideal type of food when it comes to seeking optimum health and preventing cancer. Whole fruits include; apples, Grapes, cucumbers and berries, and red grapes. Vegetables include spinach, lettuce, cabbage, and carrots
5. Choose whole grains over refined grains:
Whole grains contain fibre and are non-starchy which are prerequisites of an ideal cancer-fighting food. Refined grains are high in calories and sugars e.g parties, candies, and sweetened beverages. Whole grains include brown rice, whole grain bread, and pasta cereals.
6. Avoid or reduce Alcohol: Drinking Alcohol excessively has been linked to an increased risk of cancer in oral, lung, stomach, liver, breast, and colorectal cancer. If you must drink then; Women should not consume 1 drink of alcohol per day while men should not consume 2 drinks per day. Smoking Tobacco also increases the risk of cancer. Tobacco and alcohol together are worse for you than either on their own.
How Nutrition Can Help In The Treatment Of Cancer
Even if incurred with cancer, nutrition has an important role in limiting the effect of the disease and enhancing treatment. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and immunotherapy all have side effects that can mostly be combated by Cancer diets. During cancer treatment, main nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, minerals, fats, vitamins, fibre, and water should be focused on.
Protein: This nutrient is needed to provide strength, resist infections, and repair worn-out tissues in the course of cancer treatment. Proteins such as poultry, fish, eggs, and beans are preferable
Carbohydrates: These are needed to provide energy, increase muscle mass, and prevent muscle emancipation and weakness. The carbohydrate sources should be whole grains and not refined grains.
Fats: Healthy sources of fat such as mono and polyunsaturated fats are good for cardiovascular health and overall well-being. They do not contain cholesterol as trans and saturated fat.
Water: Fluid and water is needed to balance hemostasis, replenish cellular health and flush out toxins from the body.
Vitamins and minerals: These are needed to increase appetite and boost the immune system. Vitamins and minerals are better taken directly from natural sources than from supplements.
Fibres: These are needed for easy digestion of foods and optimum health of the alimentary canal and the Gut. Fibres can be found in whole grains and cereals.
Misconceptions about cancer and Nutrition
1. Sugar causes Cancer: Not at all. Though regular consumption may be a risk factor, it is not a fact. All cells in the human body use glucose as a source of energy; both cancerous and noncancerous cells. Our body doesn’t pick and choose which cells get what fuel.
2. Acidic diets cause Cancer: There is no tangible evidence to prove that the PH of foods has an impact on cancer.
3. Breast cancer survivors should not eat soy
This is not true as numerous studies have shown that eating soy moderately does not increase the risk of cancer recurrence.
4. Taking multivitamins supplements reduces cancer risk: taking whole fruits which contain vitamins can indeed reduce the risk of cancer but it is not certain and proven that multivitamins supplement reduces cancer risk. A study has linked high consumption of supplements to increased risk of cancer.
5. Don’t eat anything other than organics to prevent cancer: This is not true as there are no studies to prove people who solely eat organics have better health outcomes.
6. Body detoxifiers can get rid of toxins that cause cancer: The kidney and liver are the organs that help to remove toxins from the body. There is no scientific proof that conventional body cleansers remove toxins from the body.
7. Raw food is more nutritious than cooked food: Consuming raw or cooked is both nutritious. No evidence shows one is more nutritious than the other.
Nutrition has an important role to play in the prevention and treatment of cancer. There may not be a one-fit diet for the different types of cancer, but vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are significant in all types of cancer prevention and treatment. These cancer diets also function for overall well-being. Cancer patients shouldn’t rely on their perception and intuition for choosing a diet for their condition, a registered dietitian should be consulted.
There are different fads and fables concerning cancer and nutrition which may mislead and cause nutrition malpractice. Information concerning cancer and nutrition should be gotten firsthand from cancer medical specialists, registered dieticians, and authorized government websites. In the treatment of cancer, a nutrient-dense diet should be opted for as the body needs all the nutrients it can get at this stage. Nongovernmental and governmental organizations and Healthcare providers can help lessen the incidence of cancer by sensitizing and creating awareness in the public on how good nutrition can help reduce the risk of cancer.