Cancer & Diet

“Sustainable Living” does need to include “good health.” Here’s a research report that provides specific guidelines that can help improve your health.

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Thousands of cancer diagnoses tied to a poor diet, study finds


Jacqueline Howard


May 22nd, 2019


NEW YORK (CNN) — Your diet may have more impact on your cancer risk than you might think, a new study has found.

An estimated 80,110 new cancer cases among adults 20 and older in the United States in 2015 were attributable simply to eating a poor diet, according to the study, published in the JNCI Cancer Spectrum on Wednesday.


“This proportion is comparable to

the proportion of cancer burden

attributable to alcohol.”


The researchers evaluated seven dietary factors: a low intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and dairy products and a high intake of processed meats, red meats and sugary beverages, such as soda. Zhang said …


“Low whole-grain consumption was

associated with the largest cancer

burden in the US, followed by low

dairy intake, high processed-meat

intake, low vegetable and fruit in-

take, high red-meat intake and high

intake of sugar-sweetened beverages.”


The study included data on the dietary intake of adults in the United States between 2013 and 2016, which came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, as well as data on national cancer incidence in 2015 from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers used a comparative risk assessment model, which involved estimating the number of cancer cases associated with poor diet and helped evaluate how much diet may play a role in the US cancer burden. Those estimations were made using diet-cancer associations found in separate studies. Zhang said …


“Previous studies provide strong evidence

that a high consumption of processed

meat increases the risk of colorectal

cancer and a low consumption of whole

grains decreases the risk of colorectal

cancer. However, our study quantified

the number and proportion of new

cancer cases that are attributable

to poor diet at the national level.”


The researchers found that colon and rectal cancers had the highest number and proportion of diet-related cases, at 38.3%.

When the findings were looked at by diet, low consumption of whole grains and dairy products and eating a lot of processed meats contributed to the highest cancer burden.

Also, men 45 to 64 years old and ethnic minorities, including blacks and Hispanics, had the highest proportion of diet-associated cancer burden compared with other groups, the researchers found.

The study had some limitations, including that the data couldn’t shed light on how the association between diet and cancer risk may change as a person ages.

Additionally, more research is needed to determine whether a similar association would emerge for other years and time periods in the United States.


Eating junk food tied to higher

risk of numerous cancers

You probably already know that junk food, though delicious, is bad for you. It can have negative health effects such as increasing your risk of heart disease, metabolic disease and even cancer. Now, researchers have used a new nutritional labeling system to tie a diet low in nutritional quality with increased risks of a number of types of cancers. Zhang said …


“All in all, diet is among the few modifi-

able risk factors for cancer prevention.


“These findings underscore the needs

for reducing cancer burden and dis-

parities in the US by improving the in-

take of key food groups and nutrients.”


Ultraprocessed foods occupy a growing part of the world’s diet.  A 2016 study found that 60% of the calories in the average American diet come from this kind of food, and a 2017 study found that they make up half of the Canadian diet. They make up more than 50% of the UK diet, and more of the developing world is starting to eat this way.

Yet you may protect yourself from cancer by avoiding ultraprocessed foods and instead choosing organic foods, research has shown.

People who frequently eat organic foods lowered their overall risk of developing cancer, according to a study published last year in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Specifically, those who primarily ate organic foods were more likely to ward off non-Hodgkin lymphoma and postmenopausal breast cancer than those who rarely or never ate organic foods.

Additionally, according to a study published in the same journal in February, we face a 14% higher risk of early death with each 10% increase in the amount of ultraprocessed foods we eat.



Why are people eating more

of these processed foods?


Nurgul Fitzgerald, an associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University, said earlier this year


“We are living in a fast world, and

people are looking for convenient solu-

tions. We are always stretched for time.


“People are looking for quick solutions,

a quickly made meal.”


When selecting food, taste is the No. 1 factor for most consumers, she said, but price and convenience are also important, and with ultraprocessed foods, that convenience factor is “probably top of the list: grab and go, ready to eat.”

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I’m not sure the report says anything you might not have sensed on your own. But it’s a good “kick in the butt” for reminding us to be more sensitive to our food intake.

Home cooking with organic foods seems to top the “healthful intake” list. Yet, many restaurants do prepare food “from scratch,” not buying ultra-processed food from their supply sources.  Personally, I often eat at a local Thai restaurant at which the owner says that all their foods supplies are from organic sources.  I found that owners of small local restaurants will be forthcoming and candid about the nature of food they purchase.

And their menu has many options that are devoid of sugars and red meats, and feature the kinds of foods the study recommends for better health … that are also super-delicious to eat. I also found that the cost of our lunch is about the same as it is at a fast food restaurant.  And the total time, from walk-in to walk-out after eating isn’t actually all that different – except for the drive through options at the fast food restaurants.

Just as the #1 reason people gave for buying one of our Net Zero sustainable Garden Atrium homes was aesthetics, showing that everyday beauty, and their daily quality-of-life experience, won out over reduced utility bills, taste will likely win out over nutritional value. I believe we can have both.

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