Health blog: diet and cancer – what’s the latest evidence?

Health blog: diet and cancer – what’s the latest evidence?
The two large cancer research bodies (World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research) have recently published an update which continues to develop our understanding of the role of diet and lifestyle in cancer risk and prevention.

The report focused on colorectal cancer, which is the world’s 3rd most common cancer. Projections estimate this type of cancer to continue to increase over the next 15 years by 60%. Colorectal cancer is often associated with a Western lifestyles and evidence has established a strong link with the condition and diet and lifestyle.

What reduces the risk:

Being active – which reduces body fat weight
More wholegrains – at least 3 servings a day (90g)
Boosting dietary fibre – most of us are 38% below the 30g/day recommendations
Including dairy products – particularly milk, evidence is less strong for cheese 
Keeping red meat <500g/week and limiting processed meat 
Being a healthy weight for your height – Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference can help here
Minimising regular alcohol intake – 2 or more drinks a day increases the risk

There was also some evidence that fish, vitamin D, fruit & vegetables may also help to reduce risk of colorectal cancers. These are typically low in current Western diets.

Wholegrains is a hotly debated topic as, unlike America, we don’t have a daily recommended intake in the UK, yet this group of nutrient boosted grains continues to be associated with many areas of health – including weight, satiety, digestive health and micronutrient sufficiency. This updated report found 3 servings of wholegrains a day (90g), such as wholegrain breads, wild rice, oats, brown pasta, may reduce risk of colorectal cancer by up to 17%.  

Comparisons of vegetable content, which tend to be more nutritious than fruit, found the risk was reduced with the highest intakes (just over 6 portions a day). Yet most of us struggle to include enough fruit and veg each day with only 27% of adults reach 5 portions, mostly achieved from fruit rather than vegetables.

What can we do?
This report highlights the importance of the whole diet and lifestyle on health and risk of disease. No single food or nutrient is protective or causative and the relationship between diet, activity and weight is key for optimum health. Dietary advice can seem complicated and we’re yet to fully understand the complex interactions between nutrients, lifestyle and our own genetic predisposition. However, balance, moderation and variety is a common theme and it’s our aspiration to make healthy eating the everyday norm, helping to inspire customers to enjoy healthy choices more of the time.