In 2007, the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research jointly published a report having the potential to reduce cancer rates by at least a third, if their recommendations were adopted. A multinational team of 21 respected experts was charged with analyzing over 7,000 studies relating to diet, exercise, body weight, and cancer. The panel assumes everyone already knows to avoid smoking and chewing tobacco. Here are their 10 basic recommendations:
1. Be as lean as possible within the normal range of body weight (BMI or body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9). Being overweight or obese promotes certain cancers.
2. Be physically active every day. Example: 30 minutes of brisk walking.
3. Limit consumption of energy-dense (high-calorie) foods. Avoid sugary drinks. Water is the best alternative to sugary drinks. Natural fruit juice is a reasonable fruit serving, but limit to one daily.
4. Eat mostly foods of plant origin. Fill at least two-thirds of your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans.
5. Limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meats. Red meats are beef, pork, and lamb. Limit to 18 ounces of cooked red meat per week.
6. For pure cancer avoidance, don’t drink alcohol. The panel recognizes, however, that alcohol likely helps in prevention of coronary heart disease. If you drink alcohol for heart benefits, limit to two drinks daily if you are a man, and one daily if you are a woman.
7. Limit consumption of salt (associated with stomach cancer). Avoid moldy cereals and legumes (molds produce aflatoxins which cause liver cancer).
8. Aim to meet nutritional needs through food intake rather than supplements.
9. Mothers should breast-feed for six months (at least?). Children should be breast-fed.
10. Cancer survivors should still follow the recommendations for prevention of cancer.
Much of this is consistent with my book, The Advanced Mediterranean Diet: Lose Weight, Feel Better, Live Longer (2nd Edition). The AMD is a diet/weight loss book, with little reason to seriously address breast-feeding and cancer survivors. The association between salt intake and stomach cancer is news to me. Stomach cancer is not very common in the United States, where I and most of my audience live. Overweight people following the Advanced Mediterranean Diet will be far ahead of the game if they get their BMI just down to 24.9. I’m not convinced 18.5 would be any healthier, and many studies suggest the opposite.
Steve Parker, M.D.