Nutrition and its Role in Cancer Prevention
“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” – Jim Rohn
According to recent studies, more than ten million people worldwide are expected to be diagnosed with cancer, a disease commonly believed to be preventable. Lately, nutrition and the role it plays in preventing cancer, has been a hot topic; especially since more research is being published about the topic than ever before. This research confirms that the food we consume has a tremendous impact on whether we are diagnosed with cancer later in our lives.
Genetic defects are responsible for about five to ten percent of all cancer diagnoses. The remaining diagnoses are attributable to our surrounding environment and lifestyle choices. Some lifestyle choices include smoking, diet, alcohol, sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infections, stress, obesity, and physical inactivity. Evidence indicates that of all cancer-related deaths, about twenty five percent are attributable to tobacco use; as many as thirty five percent are linked to diet and nutrition; almost twenty percent of cancer-related deaths are caused by infections; and the rest are due to other factors like radiation, stress, physical inactivity, and environmental pollutants. Based on that research, it is safe to conclude that cancer prevention requires smoking cessation, increased ingestion of fruits and vegetables, use of whole grains, minimal meat consumption, moderate use of alcohol, caloric restriction, regular exercise, avoidance of direct exposure to sunlight, use of vaccinations, and routine check-ups at the doctor’s office.
Dozens of experimental studies have shown that with the proper amount of fruits and vegetables, we can neutralize a particularly dangerous group of substances in our bodies, called free radicals, which damage our cells and our DNA. Free radicals are molecules generated by certain oxidative processes in the body or by contact with a number of toxic substances. Once these free radicals are produced, they circulate throughout the body and do their dirty work. The free radicals resemble bees in their ability to “sting” the cell membranes or the inner parts of the cells, including the DNA. When these free radicals come in contact with a cell membrane, their negatively-charged “stingers” damage the membrane. If a cell is “stung” too often, without any sort of repair work, it will eventually quit functioning properly. When the DNA, inside the chromosomes of the cell, is altered by these oxidative hits, the cell can no longer reproduce and repair itself. That leads the cell to multiply in an uncontrolled manner, resulting in a tumor or an actual, malignant cancer.
Prestigious sources of medical information, such as The National Institute of Health; The National Cancer Institute; The National Heart and Lung Institute; The American Heart Association; and The American Cancer Society recommend increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables in our daily diets. Eight to ten servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with a certain amount of whole grains, is what we should be consuming every day; however, most Americans do not even consume three servings daily.
By consuming more fruits, vegetables, and grains, we can protect ourselves and neutralize the free radicals with antioxidants and natural substances. Additionally, increased consumption will help to reverse the existing damage, caused by the free radicals. Thus, there is no reason we all should not live longer lives and maintain our energy, sex drive, and other faculties throughout our entire life span. The only catch is that we have to be vigilant and eliminate dangers to our body. We can start today by increasing our intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. As this will be our path for prevention of cancer versus our focus in the treatment as it won’t be necessary because changes you make today.
Eddie Fatakhov MD, MBA is a Board Certified Internal Medicine Physician, Nutritionist, Hospitalist, and Medical Director of The Center for Internal & Integrative Medicine, focusing on healthy ways to treat the root cause of the disease. Dr. Fatakhov is also a best-selling Co-Author of The Doctors’ Clinic-30 Program.