by Joyce DiBenedetto-Colton
This past April, ESM participated in a breast cancer awareness event to educate people about the importance of diet in preventing and treating many types of cancer. There is significant evidence showing correlations between diet and cancer rates. Up to 80% of cancers of the breast, prostate, and bowel are due to dietary factors. So, there are ways through healthy diet, to decrease your risk of cancer and improve survival if you are diagnosed with breast cancer. And remember, breast cancer affects both womenand men.
Numerous studies show, cancer is much more common in populations consuming diets rich in fatty food – particularly meat – and less common in countries eating diets rich in vegetables, grains and fruits.
The facts are simple: Breast tumors are “fueled” by estrogens. High fat intake increases estrogen in the blood. With low-fat diets, estrogen levels drop. Vegetarians have significantly lower estrogen levels.
Cross-cultural comparisons point a finger at animal fats as a principle problem in cancer rates. The best diet eliminates animal products and keeps vegetable oils to a minimum. Fats (particularly animal fats): 1) increase breast cancer risks, 2) increase estrogen and reduce carrier molecules that keep estrogen in check (estradiol produced in the body is linked to the amount of fat in the diet), and 3) increase production of cancer-causing “free radicals” (radical oxygen molecules.)
The National Cancer Institute has long recommended that fat be limited to less than 30% of caloric intake. However, we now know that these levels are too high to prevent cancer, or to increase survival for those who have been diagnosed with cancer. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) recommendations, are closer to 10% of calories from fat or about 13 grams per day. On a typical American diet 37-50% of calories come from fat – or about 50-60 grams per day. Researchers estimate the typical American diet leads to about a 40% higher risk of dying from breast cancer compared to a low-fat vegetarian diet.
Here, a distinction between oils needs to be made. While all oils and fats can affect estrogen levels, certain fats are more harmful than others. It is important to greatly reduce or eliminate saturated fats from animal products – as well as partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils, also referred to as trans-fats. If you add oil to foods, use quality certified organic mono-unsaturated oils like extra-virgin olive oil and canola oil.
Simply cutting back on fat and meat intake may not work - Getting fat off your plate must be paired with generous amounts of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans which provide the phytonutrients and fiber needed to keep estrogen levels in check.
- When you do consume added oils, use certified organic oils like X-virgin olive oil and/or canola oil.
- Consume as much certified organic produce as possible.
- Reduce or eliminate refined and processed foods from your diet. Eat organic whole grains: eliminate white breads and pastas and refined white sugars.
- Up to 80% of cancers of the breast, prostate, and bowel are due to dietary factors.
- A healthy vegetarian diet filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans – and low in added fat – is the best way to prevent cancer and the best diet for improving survival rates in people with cancer.
- Read the PCRM Cancer Project information which can be found at www.pcrm.org
- Find support systems in your community to learn about healthy vegetarian and vegan diets. Or log onto www.earthsave.org