DIET AND CANCER: MESSAGE LARGELY IGNORED

DIET AND CANCER: MESSAGE LARGELY IGNORED

For over two decades, researchers have known that about 35% of all cancer deaths are due to diet. Three of the largest cancer killers--prostate, colorectal, and breast cancers--are all linked to diet. The standard preventive advice to the public has been to increase intake of fruits and vegetables to five or more servings daily and of grain products to six or more servings daily, to consume no more than 30% of calories from fat, and to decrease alcohol consumption. This was the goal announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in its 1991 report entitled Healthy People 2000. A new survey reported in Cancer, the journal of the American Cancer Society, shows that Americans have made only modest improvements in their diet. Susan M. Krebs-Smith, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute also found that Americans continue to eat too much fat, which is more than 30% of their total caloric intake. While potatoes are the most commonly consumed vegetable, more than 50% of them are eaten as French fries. Furthermore, the diets of children warrant special attention because a recent study found that 50% of the energy in the diets of children came from fat and added sugars. Dr. Krebs-Smith noted that the Healthy People 2000" objectives represent the minimum dietary recommendation.

In an editorial that accompanied the survey, Dr. John H. Weisburger advised stronger dietary recommendations. A decreased total intake of fat to approximately 20% of calories, and a regular daily intake of five to ten servings of vegetables, soy products, fruit, and tea as well as cereals and bread with high bran fiber content would go a long way toward reducing major cancer risks, wrote Dr. Weisburger of the American Health Foundation in Valhalla, New York, which has been in the forefront of diet and cancer research.

Dr. Weisburger singled out the powerful anti-cancer effects of certain foods.Recent research has observed that tomatoes are beneficial not only in reducing many kinds of cancer, but prostate cancer in particular is lower in men who regularly consume cooked tomato. And he also advises people to drink green and black teas because they are rich in effective antioxidant polyphenols.

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