FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health


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The Red Meat Debate: Use Some Common Sense

October 1, 2019:

For the past decade or so red and processed meats (beef in particular) has been associated with a higher risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Two NYT articles are presented here to that addresses this issue and helps to clarify how to deal with this ongoing issue.

The red meat debate continues as we wake up  this morning to the news that consumption of red and processed meats are of little risk to our health.

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November 5, 2015

Back in 2015, an article appeared to agree with the current assessment about red and processed meat and in addition tells us how to deal with the disturbing reports about red and processed meat and heart disease and cancer.

So what can we really believe? The following article first appeared in 2015 and seems to me to take a common sense approach to the debate that never ceases. Hint: Life is a risk.

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Diet and Cancer: What We Know?

 

The association between diet and cancer has a long history. Back in the 1980’s, it was a “hot” topic but at that time it mostly involved the role of single nutrients, namely dietary fat and cancer risks.  In fact, my PhD dissertation investigated the difference in tumor incidence in the intake of two polyunsaturated fats on breast cancer in animals.

The results of this study and a subsequent follow-up study, showed that there were no significant differences in tumor formation in rats fed either corn oil (an omega-6 fat) or fish oil (menhaden oil), an omega-3 fat). Since then, further research has supported these findings.

Recently the research has centered more on the effects of dietary patterns (e.g. more fruits and vegetables and/or plant-based) on cancer incidence in human and animal studies. Some specific foods and factors have emerged as having an association (not causative) with cancer incidence.

The following article brings us up to date on what we actually know about the complex issues of diet and cancer at the present time.

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What Do We Really Know about Diet and Cancer?

 

Diet and cancer research has been sparse for a number of reasons. One major reason is that reliable studies are not feasible to undertake with humans for obvious ethical reasons. Additionally,  observational studies cannot show cause and effect.  We are then left with animal studies that more than likely cannot be extrapolated to human cancers. In the past, only individual nutrients have been studied, i.e., vitamins, minerals, antioxidants). Studies with supplements have shown mixed results and doses are varied. Several studies using the antioxidant, beta carotene, resulted with more cases of lung cancer in smokers when compared with a placebo group. Diet patterns like the Mediterranean or vegetarian diets are difficult to conduct on large groups of human subjects due to cost.

Research on a flavonoid called sulforaphane in cruciferous vegetables may be prudent, since these compounds called phytonutrients may hold the key to cancer prevention with diet.  A study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that a high intake of broccoli greatly reduced the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.

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Diet and Cancer Prevention: A Common Sense Guide

In the past, diet and cancer associations primarily concentrated on the individual effects of nutrients on tumor growth.  I personally conducted research with rats on the effects of polyunsaturated fatty acids on breast cancer incidence and we found no differences in tumor formation between omega-6 and omega-3 fats.

We have now gotten past this narrow approach and find that the study of overall diet patterns are a better way to  convey the best way to counteract tumor initiation, promotion and progression.

The following article is long but contains excellent common sense information on diet and cancer prevention. It also explains why the scientific community has made these recommendations based on what we think we know from current research studies. It is one thing to know what to eat but the best is to know why recommendations are established.

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Will Monsanto Win (or Lose) Again?

 

 

“A California jury just held Monsanto’s Roundup and Ranger Pro herbicides responsible for a groundskeeper’s lymphoma. The jury slapped the agricultural giant  with a combined $289 million judgment — in compensatory and punitive damages —  in a landmark suit against Monsanto.”

It appears that the lawyers for the plaintiff finally exposed the secret tactics of Monsanto to suppress and manipulate scientific research in a number of ways using the companies own internal communications. Needless to say: Monsanto will appeal and this debate is far from over.

This is a statement from Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group:

“Monsanto made Roundup the oxycontin of pesticides and now the addiction and damage they caused have come home to roost.

This won’t cure DeWayne Lee Johnson’s cancer, but it will send a strong message to a renegade company.”

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Fruits and Vegetables: Conventional or Organic?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in the day of my graduate years, the main topic for my dissertation research project was to investigate what if any differences occurred in breast cancer rates in female rats when given diets containing either omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids. Spoiler: we found no significant differences in breast tumor incidence between our four groups of rats. So we repeated the study and still found no difference. Needless to say, it was a disappointment since every graduate student is sure they will inadvertently discover the cure for some disease and of course cancer was the big prize. No Nobel Prize here in other words.

Since then, diet and cancer research has progressed from dietary fats to the idea that diet and cancer associations involved the newly discovered phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables that have the potential for cancer prevention.  The study found HERE was  observational (no cause and effect). However the study was huge and lasted for 32 years.

Some fear has been generated that conventional produce is not safe to eat due to the presence of harmful pesticides. It is important to know that all produce  may have some pesticide residues and that organic crops may use less or less toxic pest control methods.  Bottom Line: Enjoy eating more of any kind of produce  – conventional or organic.  Both have very similar nutritive values and health benefits. It’s your personal choice but we need to know the facts and not avoid fruits and vegetables due to pesticide fears.

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