New Nutrition Guidelines Cut Dairy To Prevent Cancer
The Journal of the American College of Nutrition is about to release six new guidelines for healthy eating to help prevent cancer. And with anything, prevention is better than cure.
Eating well and exercising regularly have consistently been shown to reduce the risk of cancer. But our view on what eating well actually entails is forever being tweaked and revised.
Here are the six (slightly surprising) guidelines to be published on June 30:
- Limit or avoid dairy products to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
- Limit or avoid alcohol to reduce the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon, rectum and breast.
- Avoid red and processed meats to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon and rectum.
- Avoid grilled, fried and broiled meats to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon, rectum, breast, prostate, kidney and pancreas.
- Consume soy to reduce risk of breast cancer and to reduce the risk of recurrence and mortality for women previously treated for breast cancer.
- Emphasize fruits and vegetables to reduce risk of several common forms of cancer.
How does this stack up against your current diet?
If you're paleo - you're probably cheering at the first one. But then things get a little grim with 3, 4 and 5.
If you're vegan - you're probably stoked to see you meet 5 if not 6 of them.
If you're a general wholefood healthy eater - you're probably a little concerned over 1, 2 and 4.
So should we all be sober, vegan, soy drinkers, who eat lots of salad?
In my opinion - No.
If that's you - that's fine. If that's not - here's why that's ok too.
1. Dairy and prostate cancer. Most of the major evidence on this has come from epidemiological data (studies of the population) - a weaker form of evidence. Though Dr Neal Barnard, author of one study has linked 35g of dairy protein (equivalent of 1 1/2 cups cottage cheese) to an increased risk of prostate cancer by 32%. Two glasses of milk ups it by 60%. However, this meta-analysis found even though a high intake of dairy products and calcium may be associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer, the increase appears to be small. Most but not all studies appear to support the notion that higher calcium and dairy intakes lead to an increased risk of prostate cancer. So if you're a man, and have a family history of prostate cancer - I suggest you stop guzzling from the milk bottle to keep your risk low. If you have a couple of serves of dairy a day - then I wouldn't be so concerned. If you do want to cut down on dairy and you're not sure where to get your protein - take a look here.
2. Alcohol and mouth/throat, colon and breast cancers. This one is a given. You can claim red wine has antioxidants for good health all you like - but so do fruit and veggies and they're much less likely to increase your risk of cancer. The American Cancer Society explains this well: "In 2007, a working group of experts convened by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reviewed the scientific evidence on alcohol and cancer risk for 27 different anatomic sites. They found sufficient evidence that alcohol drinking is a cause of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and female breast.
And for cancers of the mouth, larynx, and esophagus, when people drink and use tobacco, the risks are combined to be greater than either tobacco use or alcohol use alone!
Importantly, it is also now well recognized that drinking even low amounts of alcohol can increase the risk of breast cancer, the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the U.S. and worldwide. Compared to non-drinkers, there is a 10% to 12% higher risk of female breast cancer associated with each drink per day." Stick to one standard glass/beer or shot of liquor a week if you must!
3. Red and processed meats and colon cancer. Red meat, pepperoni and bacon lovers - it's sad but appears to be true. In this meta-analysis of prospective studies - individuals in the highest category of red meat or processed meat consumption had a 28% and 20%, respectively, higher risk of colorectal cancer compared with those in the lowest intake categories. However many other studies suggest it's the overall diet pattern that may increase risk the most. This systematic review shows the typical Westernised diet (still containing red and processed meat, but also refined grains, fast food, high sugar drinks and desserts) had the highest risk. Additionally, this Norwegian cohort study of 84,538 women found no associated risk of red meat consumption and colon/rectum cancer, only processed meats - especially sausages.
As for why red and processed meats are picked out as the bad guys - it appears to be the combination of "their fat content, heme iron, N-nitroso compounds, heterocyclic amines (HCA), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons due to cooking at high temperature". High consumption of fruits and vegetables on the other hand, help to counteract the carcinogenic impacts of these compounds. Bottom line - limit your intake of processed meats (deli meats, bacon, etc) and don't over cook/char grill/BBQ or smoke your meat to the point of it being black on the outside. This charring, and cooking quickly over high heat is what produces most of these carcinogenic compounds.
4. Grilled, fried and broiled (US term for grilling) meats and colon, rectum, breast, prostate, kidney and pancreas. For the same reasons as number 3 - but I'd also add 'smoked' foods to this list of cooking methods to minimise.
5. Consume soy to reduce risk of breast cancer and to reduce the risk of recurrence and mortality for women previously treated for breast cancer. I was wary of this one. Soy makes me feel sick, so I very rarely have it (….if only there were more cafes offering almond milk!). Man-boob concerns aside (jury is still out on that one) - the studies showing benefits of soy products aren't looking at the westernised soy products; hings like soy milk, soy protein and isolates, soy crisps and soy derivatives that are popping up in all kinds of things. The benefits come from wholefood sources: organic tofu, tempeh, and edamame - foods commonly found in traditional Chinese diets. Most studies supporting the evidence of soy isoflavones being beneficial for breast cancer are based on Asian populations. How much this relates to Australian's is not really known. However this meta-analysis showed no protective effects from soy on Western populations, only Asian populations. Bottom line: If you have an Asian background, and a family history of breast cancer, it may be beneficial for you to include wholefood sources of soy in your diet to reduce your risk. If you do, make sure it's GMO-free and organic.
6. Emphasize fruits and vegetables to reduce risk of several common forms of cancer. A plant based diet is always a good idea. By plant-based, I mean, lots of vegetables and adequate fruit, every single day. This gives you a whole range of fibre, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and other compounds that act as your arsenal against reducing your cancer risk and keeping you healthier in general. It's a no brainer - colour your plate with them.
Now, you've seen the 'inspo' quotes on Facebook and Instagram that look a little like this:
Well it's true. Ultimately to stay eating healthy and enjoying the nutritious choices we make daily in regards to food, we need to be ok with 'cheat meals' or 'indulging'. It's part of us being human and we're allowed to enjoy the occasional treat that makes us happy. If you're that strict on yourself about food that you refuse to do so, then you're probably dieting, pretty miserable and suffering all kinds of cravings.
Take these guidelines as advice for what to do for your 'everyday', not your 'once in a while'.
Enjoy being you,