What Do You Eat and Drink: Diet Cancer Links

Recently there has been a great awareness to the relationship between the diet we eat and cancer. This is especially important since unlike many other risk factors for cancer this is a very much controllable risk factor. Many are interested in knowing the relationship between specific foods, or nutrients, and specific types of cancers. There has been extensive research done on this topic but till this date no study provides the last word on this topic. Any new research finding has to be evaluated in the larger context of available evidence so it is not advisable that you make any diet modifications based on single studies published.

Alcohol cancer link
Findings from various research publications have established that consumption of alcoholic beverages would increase the risk of cancer. Alcohol increases the risk of development of various cancers including cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, and breast, and probably of the colon and rectum. It should be pointed out here that moderate amount of alcohol consumption has been shown to decrease the risk of having a heart attack. So it is suggested that those who are drinking alcohol should do this in moderation. It is recommended that men limit their alcohol intake to a maximum of two drinks per day and women should limit their alcohol consumption to a maximum of one drink per day. It should be mentioned that the combination of alcohol and tobacco have a much greater impact on cancer risk compared to use of one of these agents. Women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer may be suggested to abstain from drinking any alcoholic beverages.

Antioxidants and cancer protection
Some of the products of normal metabolism could have a damaging effect on the tissues and such damages could increase the risk of developing cancer. Some nutrients called antioxidants are very essential to protect the body from harmful metabolic products that are produced in the body. These antioxidants are present in various fruits and vegetables. These antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, and some phytochemicals. This is consistent with the observation that people, who eat more vegetables and fruits, may have a lower risk for some types of cancer. Antioxidant supplementation has not been proven to decrease cancer risk and more studies are underway in this regard. The best advice would be to consume plenty of fruits and vegetables to decrease the risk of many cancers.

Aspartame cancer link
Aspartame is used in many of the low calorie beverages as an artificial sweetener. There has been some controversy about the risk of aspartame with regard to increasing risk of cancer but the current evidence does not support any link between aspartame consumption and increased cancer risk.

Beta-carotene and cancer protection
Beta-carotene, is an antioxidant and is chemically related to vitamin A. This antioxidant is found in abundance in vegetables and fruits. For some time scientists believed that high doses of beta-carotene supplements might reduce cancer risk. Recently published studies suggest that this may not be true. In two of these studies it was shown high dose of beta-carotene actually increases the risk of cancer and the third study found neither benefit nor harm from them. Consuming vegetables and fruits that contain beta-carotene may still be helpful, but high-dose beta-carotene supplements should not be taken.