In this article we will look at recent research surrounding the making of good food choices for cancer patients.
What are good food choices for cancer patients?
In the largest study of its kind, people who ate a daily handful of nuts were 20 percent less likely to die from any cause over a 30-year period than were those who didn’t consume nuts, say scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Harvard School of Public Health.
Their report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, contains further good news. The regular nut-eaters were found to be more slender than those who didn’t eat nuts, a finding that should alleviate the widespread worry that eating a lot of nuts will lead to overweight.
Whether any specific type or types of nuts were crucial to the protective effect couldn’t be determined. However, the reduction in mortality was similar both for peanuts and for “tree nuts” – walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias, pecans, cashews, pistachios and pine nuts.
Several previous studies have found an association between increasing nut consumption and a lower risk of diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, gallstones, and diverticulitis. Higher nut consumption also has been linked to reductions in cholesterol levels, oxidative stress, inflammation, adiposity, and insulin resistance. Some small studies have linked increased nuts in the diet to lower total mortality in specific populations. But no previous research studies had looked in such detail at various levels of nut consumption and their effects on overall mortality in a large population that was followed for over 30 years.
The authors do note that this large study cannot definitively prove cause and effect; nonetheless, the findings are strongly consistent with “a wealth of existing observational and clinical trial data to support health benefits of nut consumption on many chronic diseases.” In fact, based on previous studies, the US Food and Drug Administration concluded in 2003 that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts “may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
Fruits and Vegetables for Cancer
Researchers at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center recently discovered that a greater consumption of fruits and vegetables may lower the risk of invasive bladder cancer in women.
The researchers found that women who consumed the most fruits and vegetables had the lowest bladder cancer risk. For instance, women consuming the most yellow-orange vegetables were 52% less likely to have bladder cancer than women consuming the least yellow-orange vegetables. The data also suggested that women with the highest intake of vitamins A, C, and E had the lowest risk of bladder cancer. No associations between fruit and vegetable intake and invasive bladder cancer were found in men. 1
In other research, investigators from the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) reported that African American women who consume more vegetables are less likely to develop estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer than women with low vegetable intake. The study results, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, were based on data from the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS), a large follow-up study of 59,000 African American women from across the U.S. conducted by investigators at the Slone Epidemiology Center since 1995.
According to the BUSM researchers, specific types of vegetables may play a greater role in reducing breast cancer risk. The investigators reported that high intake of cruciferous vegetables in particular may be associated with reduced risk of breast cancer overall. Cruciferous vegetables, which include broccoli, mustard and collard greens, and cabbage, are sources of glucosinolates, which may play a role in preventing the development of breast cancer through their effects on both estrogen metabolism and detoxification enzymes. The researchers also observed evidence suggesting that increased carrot consumption may be associated with lower risk of breast cancer. Carrots are rich sources of carotenoids, which may reduce cancer risk through their antioxidant properties.2 associated with lower risk of breast cancer. Carrots are rich sources of carotenoids, which may reduce cancer risk through their antioxidant properties.
Food choices for cancer patients – Phtyoestrogens
“Phtyoestrogen” means estrogen from a plant source. Phytoestrogens have the ability to mimic or affect estrogen activity inside us. Phytoestrogens may act as weak estrogens, or be a precursor to estrogen activity.
Soy contains phytoestrogens which provide protective benefits. Two phytoestrogens in particular — genistein and daidzein, both isoflavones — have been associated with the ability to inhibit cancers of the breast, the ovary, and the uterus. A third phytoestrogen, saponins (also found in soybeans), can help reduce the spread of cancer cells in the colon and reduce your cholesterol level. All three can also help alleviate symptoms of menopause.
It’s now believed that the phytoestrogen in soybeans can actually counteract cancer-promoting estrogen in much the same way that the drug tamoxifen does. In Asian countries, those women who eat twice as much soy protein as their compatriots seem to have about 50 percent less chance of developing breast cancer.
Soy can be found in soybeans, soy milk, soy cheese, soy flour, soy hot dogs, tofu, tempeh, miso, and textured soy protein.
Recent research from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute noted that “A reduced risk of endometrial cancer was associated with total isoflavone intake.” They came to the conclusion that their study “suggests that greater consumption of isoflavone-containing foods is associated with a reduced risk of endometrial cancer in this population of nonhysterectomized postmenopausal women.” 3
Other research also confirms the benefits of phytoestrogens in colorectal cancer prevention.4 and studies in which soy isoflavones were given in conjunction with radiotherapy to prostate cancer patients suggest that soy isoflavones might also mitigate the adverse effects of radiation on normal tissues, probably by acting as antioxidants.5
1. Their findings that greater consumption of fruits and vegetables may lower the risk of invasive bladder cancer among women are published in the August 2013 issue of The Journal of Nutrition. Fruit and Vegetable Intakes Are Associated with Lower Risk of Bladder Cancer among Women in the Multiethnic Cohort Study
3. Ollberding NJ, Lim U, Wilkens LR, et al. Legume, Soy, Tofu, and Isoflavone Intake and Endometrial Cancer Risk in Postmenopausal Women in the Multiethnic Cohort Study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2011 Dec 12. [Epub ahead of print]
4.Barone M, Lofano K, De Tullio N, Licino R, Albano F, Di Leo A. Dietary, Endocrine, and Metabolic Factors in the Development of Colorectal Cancer.J Gastrointest Cancer. 2011 Nov 3. [Epub ahead of print]
5.Hillman GG, Singh-Gupta V. Soy isoflavones sensitize cancer cells to radiotherapy. Free Radic Biol Med. 2011 Jul 15;51(2):289-98. Epub 2011 May 4.