Saturday, October 16, 2010

Meat, vegetables, bread and cancer risk

We all know that diet plays a big part in our health, but reports in the press can sometimes be confusing and even contradictory. This month there have been some interesting reports of the links between certain foods and cancer - either to increase the risk or help prevent it.

So here is a handy round-up covering meat, vegetables and bread crust!
Vegetarians at less risk than meat eaters for many cancers

Earlier this month the British Journal of Cancer reported that vegetarians are 12% less likely to develop cancer than meat eaters. In a study of more than 61,000 people scientists from Oxford followed meat eaters and vegetarians for over 12 years, during which 3,350 of the participants were diagnosed with cancer.

They found that the risk of being diagnosed with cancers of the stomach, bladder and blood was lower in vegetarians than in meat eaters.

The most striking difference was in cancers of the blood including leukaemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The risk of these diseases was 45% lower in vegetarians than in meat eaters.

The study looked at 20 different types of cancers. The differences in risks between vegetarians and meat eaters were independent of other lifestyle behaviours including smoking, alcohol intake and obesity, which also affect the chance of developing cancer.

Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: "These interesting results add to the evidence that what we eat affects our chances of developing cancer. We know that eating a lot of red and processed meat increases the risk of stomach cancer. But the links between diet and cancer risk are complex and more research is needed to see how big a part diet plays and which specific dietary factors are most important.

Meat eaters at increased risk of pancreatic cancer

In more bad news for carnivores, another study showed that high intake of dietary fats from red meat and dairy products was associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

The results of the study were that men and women who consumed high amounts of total fats had 53% and 23% higher relative rates of pancreatic cancer, respectively, compared with men and women who had the lowest fat consumption.

Participants who consumed high amounts of saturated fats had 36% higher relative rates of pancreatic cancer compared with those who consumed low amounts. One of the scientists involved commented: "We observed positive associations between pancreatic cancer and intakes of total, saturated, and mono-unsaturated fat overall, particularly from red meat and dairy food sources. We did not observe any consistent association with polyunsaturated or fat from plant food sources. Altogether, these results suggest a role for animal fat in pancreatic carcinogenesis."

Over 500,000 people were analysed in the study for an average of 6 years, so these are substantial numbers. However, the editors of the journal in which the study was published noted that there is insufficient epidemiological and laboratory evidence to confirm the importance of animal fats or even that meat is the important factor, as opposed to other dietary or lifestyle preferences associated with meat consumption.

Bread crust and cancer prevention

A new study by Indian scientists suggests that a chemical found in the crust of bread may protect against bowel cancer.

During bread baking a chemical called pronyl-lysine is released - this is an anti-oxidant and it is eight times more abundant in the crust than the rest of the loaf.

Rats were given regular doses of pronyl-lysine and in these cases it appeared to prevent the development of pre-cancerous lesions in the colon by as much as 70% or more.

It should be noted that this study was carried out on rats, not humans, and therefore is not at the same level as the previous two studies. However, the results are interesting and point the way for further research.- Yahoo Lifestyle

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