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Knife & Fork : Cancer and nutrition.

By Ruba Shawwa Cancer is one of the most common diseases of our time, and probably the most feared illness. It has been ranked as one of the most common causes of death all around the world. Unfortunately, it is very widespread nowadays that approximately, every one of us has a relative or a friend suffering from cancer. And with all the medical development and the treatments available these days, science is still searching for ways to prevent its occurrence rather than dealing with the disease itself and its painful symptoms.However, it has been established that dietary patterns, foods, nutrients, and other dietary constituents are closely associated with the risk for several types of cancer, as reports the American National Cancer Institute. Currently, available research shows that diets low in fat and high in fiber, fruits, vegetables and grain products are associated with reduced risks for many cancers. In addition, many studies are recently uncovering the importance of several food constituents and phytochemicals in preventing cancer and controlling its growth and development in cases where it already exists. And the good news is that only by following some simple rules, including some foods in your daily regime and excluding some others, you'll be able to reduce your risk of developing cancer substantially.In this concern, I would like to highlight the role of fat in the occurrence of cancer. As I mentioned earlier, it is recommended that you consume a low-fat diet as diets high in fat have been linked to an increased risk of various cancers, particularly breast, colon, prostate and possibly pancreas and ovary cancers. So, it is advised to limit the total fat intake to not more than 30 percent of your daily caloric intake. It was also found that increasing your consumption of omega-3 fats (typically found in flaxseed oil, walnut oil and fish) relative to omega-6 fats (found in corn, soy, canola, safflower and sunflower oils) can inhibit the growth of cancer cells especially breast cancer, both by preventing it and by reducing tumor size where the cancer already exists.In addition, some vitamins also play an important role in preventing cancer, such as folic acid and vitamin B12, vitamin C as well as vitamin E.Folic acid and vitamin B12 were found to convert the amino acid homocysteine to methionine, a substance that helps prevent cells from becoming malignant. It was also found that folic acid may provide some protection against cervical and colon cancer, and it was reported that folic acid may reduce the risk for breast cancer among women who regularly drink alcohol.As for vitamin C, some epidemiological studies found that it can provide significant protection especially in cancers of the esophagus, oral cavity and stomach. In addition, some protective effects of vitamin C have also been reported for cancers of the pancreas, rectum and cervix.Vitamin E has been also linked to reduced risks of oral, stomach and other cancers in epidemiological studies and it has inhibited tumors in experimental animals.Phytochemicals also play a major role in this concern reducing the risk of many types of cancers. Beta-carotene for example, which is found in yellow-orange fruits and vegetables such as mangoes, apricots, papaya, kiwifruit, sweet potatoes and green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach was found to reduce the risk of many cancers.Lutein is another example of a phytochemical that plays a positive role in cancer prevention. It is found mainly in Kale, spinach and collard greens. Other sources of lutein include kiwifruit, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and romaine lettuce.Another phytochemical is lycopene, found in red fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes and cooked tomato products, red peppers, pink grapefruit and watermelon. Diets rich in lycopene have been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer and lung cancer for smokers. And last but not least, Mayo Clinic recommends some steps to prevent cancer and these include avoiding tobacco, eating a variety of healthy foods, staying active and maintaining a healthy weight, protecting yourself from the sun and getting regularly screened for certain cancers.A*Knife & Fork : Cancer and nutrition

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Publication:The Star (Amman, Jordan)
Date:Mar 29, 2008
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