Anti-cancer diets: watch out for hoaxes

    Anti-cancer diets: watch out for hoaxes

    Better to focus on cabbage or turmeric? Goji or acai berries? Fermented papaya or hemp seeds? What will be the most powerful anticancer agents? If in doubt, let's have a feast of everything ...

    How many miracle foods and super diets able, according to "the latest research", to stop the risk of an oncological disease or even to cure it! Unfortunately, truth, misinterpretations of true discoveries and full-blown hoaxes mix and break through our concern for health and the need for hope of so many sick people.

    To clarify, some of the more authoritative Milanese research and treatment institutes, who work on the theme of nutrition applied to oncology, have recently organized the conference "At the table to prevent, at the table to heal". Here are the firm points of the experts.

    Are there any anti-cancer foods?

    «No food alone, is able to protect us from a multifactorial pathology such as a tumor: dusting of turmeric our traditional dishes worsen their flavor and is useless, because the antioxidant principles are activated when this ingredient is cooked, as in Indian cuisine ", he explains Stefano Erzegovesi, nutritionist and psychiatrist, head of the Center for Eating Disorders of the San Raffaele Hospital.

    Consume some foods can contribute to cancer prevention, but without exaggeration and within balanced diets. Authoritative studies have shown, for example, that the consumption of citrus fruits has a protective role against stomach cancer; that of cabbage, broccoli & Co. defends against tumor development in general, while i vegetables rich in beta-carotene (carrots, spinach, melons) are useful against lung cancer. The protective role of the tomato on the prostate is probable, but not conclusively proven.

    Is it true that meats and dairy products promote cancer?

    «One of the most consolidated knowledge is the relationship between consumption of red meats, in particular cured meats and sausages, and the incidence of bowel cancer », warns Dr. Franco Berrino, physician, epidemiologist and long-time director of the Department of Preventive and Predictive Medicine at the National Cancer Institute, who has carried out many studies for understand the link between cancer and lifestyles, food choices in the first place.

    "The role of milk and cheeses is very controversial: due to its richness in calcium it protects the intestine, but there is a suspicion that, in excess, milk is associated with cancers of the ovary and prostate»Explains Dr. Erzegovesi.

    Are sugar diets dangerous?

    "A high glycemic index diet (with a lot of sugars, refined flours, easily digestible starches), rich in saturated fats (in red meats and dairy products) and low in whole foods, it is at the base of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. The resulting hyperinsulinemia increases the availability of growth factors (IGF-I) that promote the development of cancerous cells and sex hormones, and therefore the formation of hormone-dependent tumors, ”he explains Patrizia Pasanisi, nutritionist at the Epidemiology and Prevention Department of the National Cancer Institute.

    "Insulin resistance is also associated withincreased levels of inflammation which, in turn, favor the appearance and progression of tumors. Much of the incidence and mortality from cancer and other chronic diseases could be prevented with one moderate restriction of calories and proteins, following a Mediterranean or macrobiotic diet, and increasing physical activity ", warns Dr. Pasanisi.

    But why is it so difficult to resist junk food?

    «Junk-food is creamy, smooth, buttery. The favorite dishes of children (pizza, chips, desserts, cutlet, fried) correspond to the need of our ancestors to have food that would provide energy ready to use and free of "obstacles", also sensory. Healthy foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish) have one lower calorie density and more complex flavors, bitter, are fibrous, must be chewed for a long time and are less pleasant. But often they are not welcome simply because they are poorly cooked. And it is impossible follow a healthy diet for more than a few months if it is not possible to make it even tasty », observes Dr. Erzegovesi.

    What, then, is the best diet to prevent cancer?

    “According to the World Cancer Research Fund's review of all food and cancer studies, we need to base our daily diet primarily on plant-based foods: whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruit, ”he explains Franco Berrino.

    «The protective effect is mainly due to their variety, which ensures us of take on many precious substances without excess: just think of the cases of intoxication of those who think of enhance your tan drinking carrot juice every day. Let's try, for example, to eat at least 5 different vegetables per week. Seasonality doesn't seem that important, but I remain convinced that it is better favor the foods of the place where we live, because they are (also from a genetic point of view) the most suitable for us », concludes Dr. Berrino.

    Is the regime that "mimics" fasting effective?

    The decrease in calorie intake causes a significant increased life expectancy.

    “It has been demonstrated in the laboratory, but it is difficult to propose it to the population", he claims Lucilla Look, coordinator of the SmartFood project (a research program on the relationship between food and our health) of the European Institute of Oncology. «However, we have observed, in several studies, that some compounds (resveratrol from grapes, fisetin from strawberries or capsaicin from chilli) "Mimic" the cut of calories, which stimulates longevity genes and inhibits those of aging. This opens up the possibility, for research, of identifying one diet that simulates caloric restriction, bringing the same benefits ».

    Why start prevention at an early age?

    Second Lelio Morricone, head of the "EAT-Sustainable Nutrition" Project and director of the Clinical Nutrition Service of the San Donato Polyclinic (Milan), to make "real" prevention we need to focus on the very young: "Many diseases are attributable to behaviors that are established since childhood, such asexcessive consumption of high-calorie foods and poor from a nutritional point of view (sweets, drinks, snacks, chips, snacks, cured meats, packaged foods) and reduced physical activity».

    The EAT program, which aims to change bad habits, has involved so far over 5 thousand adolescents between 11 and 15 years. Results? «A high consumption of fruit and vegetables, reduction of soft drinks with added sugars and snacks, significant increase in physical activity and the number of daily steps. So the share of overweight boys it dropped from 25,5 to 17,6% and that of obese young people from 9,2 to 6,8% ».

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