Monday, September 03, 2007
You Can Control Your Risk of Colon Cancer – Here’s How
The new study published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) 8/15/07, looked at patients with Stage III colon cancer treated with chemotherapy. They found that those eating a more “Western pattern diet” experienced a tripling in risk of recurrence or death in contrast to those following a more “prudent diet.”
The “Western pattern diet” is characterized in the study as higher intakes of red and processed meats, sweets and desserts, French fries, and refined grains. Whereas the “prudent diet” is characterized as higher in fruits and vegetables, poultry and fish, low-fat dairy products, legumes and whole grains.
This is not rocket science but basic intelligent nutrition advice for anyone interesting in enhancing health and vitality and lower their risk of all chronic disease. But it may be worthwhile to look further into the evidence and consider it in the context of previous studies on diet and colon cancer. There are at least four important themes that you can learn from:
1. It’s not just desserts and white bread: It is a known fact that high levels of insulin is associated with enhanced tumor growth. High levels of insulin and insulin resistance is associated not just with intake of sugars and refined grains but with other factors such as when you eat, how you balance carbohydrates with protein and healthy fat in each meal, and how much you exercise.
2. It’s not just French fries: Avoiding “unhealthy fats” and including a moderate amount of “healthy fat” is essential for controlling systemic inflammation, a marker of cancers and all chronic disease. Most people think all they need to do is select reduced fat or nonfat products. A most important consideration often overlooked is processed vegetable oils (any oil that is not expeller-pressed or cold pressed, partially hydrogenated fats). These are found not just in fried foods but in many products that most people consider basically healthy, including salad dressings and marinades, peanut butters, spreads, baked goods, crackers and breads, many restaurant foods.
3. Don’t forget Vitamin D: Less than optimal vitamin D levels are associated with a host of chronic health issues, including colon cancer. A simple blood test and subsequent supplementation with a vitamin D capsule can eliminate this risk factor.
4. It’s more than just fruit: We all know that increasing our intake of fruits and vegetables lowers cancer risk because it increases your intake of vitamins, minerals, and powerful plant compounds called antioxidants. Most people end up focusing on fruits and barely get in a serving of vegetables each day. Focusing on vegetables first, including dark green leafies and cruciferous, is most important. My advice is to aim for at least 6 servings a day. I admit this requires planning, but once you get in the habit of doing it, it is not so difficult. And, it’s one of the best protective measure you can take for yourself.
Not Surprising – Diet Soda Is Bad For You
Some older studies have suggested that articial sweeteners stimulate hunger. But, it now seems they cause bigger problems. A recent and very compelling study actually found a significant positive association between soda drinkers (both regular and diet) and metabolic syndrome – a precursor to adult onset diabetes and heart disease. The study was part of the famous Framingham Heart Study and looked at soft drink consumption of over 6000 middle-aged adults over a 4-year period. Even after adjusting for other dietary and lifestyle factors, they still found that a significantly higher percentage of those people who consumed one or more 12-ounce servings of soda per day developed metabolic syndrome factors over the 4-year period than those who had less than one drink per day. It did not matter much whether the soda was regular or diet.
Metabolic syndrome, also known as insulin resistance or syndrome X, is associated with lifestyle factors such as lack of physical activity, being overweight, and having high serum glucose and lipids and high blood pressure.
Not many people would question that regular consumption of soda sweetened with high fructose corn syrup might result in weight gain or any of the other factors listed above, but diet soda? The authors of the study, which appeared in Circulation, Journal of the American Heart Association, 7/23/07, offer several possible explanations to this phenomenon. The high sweetness of diet (or regular) soft drinks may lead to a greater preference for sweets. They also suggest that caramel content of both diet and regular drinks may be “a potential source of advanced glycation end products, which promote insulin resistance and can be proinflammatory,” (increasing risk of damage to the arteries.)
I have been watching the effects of artificially sweetened drinks and foods for some time in my practice and discussing this with colleagues. We have noticed that, for most people, especially those trying to lose weight, removing these products can have a powerful impact. Many of us suspect (but studies are yet to confirm) that artificial sweetenrs may actually be more harmful than natural sweeteners. Articial sweeteners fool the brain to stimulate hunger and insulin response – simply thinking about the taste of sweet can cause a spike in insulin by telling the brain that something sweet is coming. This tells you to eat more sugar or more food to balance out insulin.
So, my advice to all my clients is to read packages and become mindful of the amount of sweeteners – both articial and otherwise – in the food and drink products they consume. Most are totally unaware of how considerable their intake of these sweeteners is and are amazed of how many products contain them, including those foods marketed as “health foods” – nonfat yogurts, frozen desserts, low calorie snacks and drinks, salad dressings, cereals, energy bars – just to name a few.
The goal is to remove these products from the diet and wean away from the taste of sweet. Most soon find that they enjoy their food and drink more and the benefits to their weight and health issues are truly remarkable.