Every once in a while I come across a study that makes me want to get together with the researchers. I realize every person is individual, and every cancer is different, too. Perhaps this is what makes me shake my head the most when I read these studies.
This most recent study I read claimed, “Science is finding links between diet and disease. The right combination of foods helps prevent cancers. What to eat and what to avoid.” The head of Harvard School of Public Health states, “Dozens and dozens of studies show that people who are overweight or obese have higher rates of many different cancers. It’s not just one study or two, there’s a massive amount of evidence.”
I used to believe the information about weight and diet more than I do now. I’m tall, thin, and have always been somewhat active and eaten healthy foods. Not a big drinker; never a smoker —you get the picture.
The study done by National Institutes of Health and AARP followed half million people over the age of 50. The study began in 1995, and looked at the connection between diet and cancer. Like a kid at the fair, I’m under the measurement line. Can’t join AARP yet. I do know folks who are AARP age, and gave me the study to read.
I’m weary of studies with convincing wording like “strongest evidence to date” “links between diet and cancer.” We’ve read it all before—then it changes. Remember coffee? It used to be bad for you. Bad. Bad. Bad. Now “studies show” women who drink more than three cups of coffee a day are 35 percent less likely to be diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Men and women who drank four or more cups of coffee a day (either decaf or regular) had lower risk of colon cancer compared with non-coffee drinkers. I’m not a coffee drinker. Maybe that’s why I ask, “Is this irresponsible journalism?” I know a woman who drank coffee—lots of it. Hot coffee; iced coffee; any coffee. She all-of-a-sudden died one night while at a neighborhood party (but, she didn’t have endometrial or colon cancer!)
On to meat. Now pork and lamb count as red meat, and the cancer risk with meat “could be tied to the naturally high iron content of red meat.” It’s now suggested that 18 ounces of protein a week come cooked red meat. Funny, that’s much closer to where I was before getting cancer and being told to increase my protein intake—specifically from red meat. “For cancer prevention fill two-thirds of your plate with plant-based foods: vegetables, beans, whole grains and nuts. No more than a third of your meal should be animal-based, such as chicken, seafood, lean beef, or low-fat dairy products.” I find this sort of “study” crazy! Isn’t this common sense? Where do they get their funding? How much money is going into gathering these tried and true, already known facts?
But onto another study. Just in time. Don’t get too comfy with your health knowledge regarding fruits and vegetables. Researchers now say, “We’ve over-sold their protective qualities.” WHAT? Yes. If you tell people they won’t get cancer if they eat fruits and vegetables, then you’ve over-sold it. If you tell people this is a healthy life-style—an aspect of cancer prevention—but no guarantee, then you are presenting the facts in a responsible way. In my view, this would also include giving up studies on chocolate and wine. Tell people, especially if there’s weight gain, to follow the moderation rule with all food and drink, and have researchers donate the money saved on the study to something other than food related.
By the time I finished reading the study on cancer and food, I was mad—which is sort of funny, because I know being mad isn’t good for anyone’s health! If you’re interested, there’s more to the study. If you have access to a paper copy or online at AARP.org/bulletin December 2012. The article ended with, “Consider your total diet…The more colors the more nutrients.” From now on, I suggest reading only the last paragraph of all studies, and promoting future action-based studies. What about taking care of our soil, getting rid of extreme use of pesticides and lessening our reliance/acceptance of processed foods. What if knowledge of the power of our minds was introduced early and mainstream, not esoteric? Sort of like “eat your fruits and vegetables.”