Harshita Choudhary,

MBBS Intern,

Maulana Azad Medical College, Delhi.

Trending on social media is the new range of food products which are marketed as “Anti- Cancer”, but is there really any truth behind these claims?

Do our food habits and lifestyle have any role in preventing cancer and other lifestyle diseases or is it to be totally blamed on our genetic makeup?

One thing is certain; there is no food that can totally stop cancer from developing but eating healthy food can certainly reduce your risk of cancer. The common link between the food we eat and cancer is obesity. Obesity or unhealthy deposition of fat around our body organs can impair proper functioning of organs and create a pro-inflammatory environment in our body which can seed as a nidus for cancer development.

It is not uncommon for us to come across supplement food packages claiming them to be “Superfoods”, due to high amounts of omega three fatty acids and antioxidants. So as far as these are concerned, Omega-3-fatty acids are essential nutrients needed for our body, particularly our heart to function smoothly. They are needed from our diet as our body is not able to manufacture them. Omega 3 fatty acids are shown to decrease risk of sudden cardiac arrest and heart attacks by preventing our blood from thickening and hence have a protective effect on our heart. It also improves the level of “good” cholesterol in our body (HDL). 

But do you always needs expensive supplements to fulfil this need?

The answer is NO. Natural food products like fish (Mackerel, Salmon, Tuna, Herring) have a high amount of Omega 3 fatty acids, sufficient to fulfill the normal requirement. For vegetarians, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts, soy foods and canola oil are excellent alternatives. In case of heart disease patients, increased requirements can be discussed with your doctor before starting supplements. Healthy individuals taking supplements can be at risk from bleeding due to excessing thinning of blood. So be careful before you fall for frivolous supplements and claims!

Next up in the food trends are the diet patterns which is making the “GenZ” go crazy without knowledge or evidence of its benefits. So let us address the giant in the room: “Keto Diet”.

What exactly is keto diet? So Keto diet is a high-fat, very low carbohydrate diet. Implying eating fewer than 50 grams of carbs a day — less than four slices of bread! Being on a predominant fat meal, our body uses fats (instead of carbs) to produce energy which yields a chemical compound called KETOne that is beneficial for the brain. Hence, Keto diet has evidence of being helpful in patients with Seizure disorders. But its utility in healthy individual is still questionable. Furthermore, concentrating our diet with only fats (unhealthy saturated fats form a huge chunk) results in cutting out a lot of food items which provide essential micronutrients. So long term health hazards cannot be overlooked with such a diet pattern.

A much healthier diet pattern which is appreciated by researchers is the Mediterranean diet, including Plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs and spice. Olive oil (healthier unsaturated fat) is the main source of added fat here with moderate animal meat (Fish for essential fatty acid twice a week).

Fancy names can be assigned to several diet patterns but the basic mantra to your cancer-fighting food list is to make sure you include a variety of colors (Green for veggies, oranges, tomatoes, berries and all that you can think of!).  Plan to fill two-thirds of every plate with vegetables, fruits and whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, oats, etc). Limit processed meat (Trans-saturated fats), red meat and alcohol.

Keeping your BMI under check can definitely take you a long way in reducing your risk of cancer.

For further reading and references of my above article:

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