Diet linked to Cancer

A new report by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund titled Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective, has noted that excess body fat increases one’s risk of developing cancer.

The report emphasized the need to maintain a healthy weight, including an optimal body mass index (BMI). It is also important to maintain an optimal body fat percentage (not over 24% for men, and 28% for women) as BMI does not differentiate between weights due mainly to bone, muscles, or fat, whereas excess fat, particularly waistline fat, could predispose an individual to a variety of diseases.

It is also important to check the optimal values for these measures as they vary by age and gender, among others. The report also recommends the need for regular physical exercises. This should be tailored to individual needs.  

The report also recommends embracing healthier diets such as foods from plants to reduce cancer risk, and avoiding foods such as red meat, and processed meats such as bacon, sausage, and lunchmeat, and limiting alcohol use.

The new report is consistent with the views of organizations such as the American Cancer Society (ACS) over the years, also laid out in the 2006 update of its Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Prevention, and its 2006 Guide to Informed Choices for Cancer Survivors.

According to ACS guidelines, one should eat a diet rich in plant-based foods, exercise for a minimum of half an hour five, or days a week, keep the BMI between 18.5 and 24.9, and limit the consumption of alcohol, red meat, and processed meats. Eating a healthy diet that stresses whole grains, fruits and vegetables, could not only reduce cancer risk, but also help to control weight, hence reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases.

The report, which reviewed about 7,000 researches on diet, physical activity and weight management and their effect on risk for 17 cancer types also notes the strongest evidence on ways foods are prepared, processed, and preserved, indicates that salt and salt-preserved foods probably cause stomach cancer, and that foods contaminated with aflatoxins cause liver cancer.