Cancer is sadly becoming a common word! But, did you know that one third cancers are related to nutirtion? In recent years, there have been numerous studies showing the important role of food against cancer, not only in the prevention, but also in the improvement of tolerance to treatments and increasing the quality of life of patients, meaning nutrition is a key to prevent and improve the development of this disease.
When we speak of the link between nutrition and cancer, it is necessary to detail that there are two types of related factors; the nutritional protective factors, ie food and habits that reduce the risk; and etiological nutritional factors, ie food and dietary behaviors that increase their risk.
What are the nutritional factors that protect against cancer?
1. Fruits and vegetables intake
In several studies, there are positive results between the consumption of fruits and vegetables and a lower overall risk of cance, especially in relation to stomach, mouth, pharynx and larynx cancer.
In addition, fruit consumption is associated to a decreased risk of lung cancer and vegetable intake to a reduced risk of breast cancer.
The main responsible for this protective effect are compounds that are called phytochemicals and found in large numbers in these foods. These compounds have antioxidant and known anti-cancer functions.
On the other hand, fruits and vegetables are rich in dietary fiber, that as discussed below, has a clear protective effect against cancer.
2. Intake of dietary fiber.
Dietary fiber refers to plant components that are not digestible by digestive enzymes and therefore are resistant to digestion and absorption in the small intestine.
This compound is linked to various beneficial effects closely linked to the positive relationship between fiber intake and reduced risk of cancer, especially colorectal cancer and breast cancer.
Within these effects include the production of short-chain fatty acid, which can inhibit the growth and proliferation of cancer cells in the gut; reducing insulin requirements by slowing intestinal absorption of glucose; and the ability to increase stool weight and reduce intestinal transit time.
In order to get these benefits, it is recommended that daily fiber intake in adults to be between 25 and 38 g, an amount that is far away from the current intake in USA (15-18 g / day).
3. Consumption of fish
Fish consumption may be protective against some types of cancer (colorectal, esophageal and liver).
Relationships found showing that increased daily consumption of 20g fish is associated with a decreased risk of gastrointestinal cancers.
What are the nutritional factors that increase the risk of cancer?
1. Alcohol abuse
Despite knowing that alcohol consumption increases the risk of death, many people today continue to abuse its intake. With regard to alcohol consumption and cancer, there is a clear scientific consensus association between alcohol intake and the appearance of various cancer (liver, mouth, esophagus, breast and colon, among others).
Alcohol besides being carcinogenic neurotoxic, immunosuppressive and detrimental to the cardiovascular system.
2. High salt intake.
When I talk about salt intake, not only I mean adding salt to food ourselves when we cook, but also to which is added to the products processed by the manufacturer.
A high salt intake is associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer.
The reasons that may explain this association may be several, among which it is suggested that a high intake of salt in the diet can change the viscosity of the mucosa and enhance exposure to carcinogens compounds.
Remember that moderate salt intake is always advisable, even not having health problems.
3. Consumption of red and processed meat.
The World Health Organization (WHO) lists the high consumption of red and processed meats as a cancer risk.
The risk is not the same for both types of meat, considering that red meat is a "probable human carcinogen" by their association with colorectal cancer and other types such as prostate.
Meanwhile, high consumption of processed meat has a clear association with increased cancer, having been classified as "carcinogenic to humans".
4. Cooking food at high temperatures
Using cooking methods involving high temperatures can be a risk factor for cancer.
On the one hand, we know that when certain foods are cooked above 120 degrees; temperature generally achieved when cooking methods such as frying or baking are utilized, a substance called acrylamide occurs. High levels of acrylamide cause cancer in animals, hence the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has warned that the presence of acrylamide in food is a concern for public health. This substance is usually present in products such as potato chips, cookies and pastries, among others. At the household level, it can be frequent in French fries, on toasted bread and vegetables cooked at high temperatures.
On the other hand, when cooking the meat at high temperatures (grill over direct heat, frying pan) for a while, heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are generated, which can increase the risk of cancer.