This year, World Cancer Day takes place on Thursday 4th February 2021. The global theme is #IAmAndIWill, which aims to encourage us all to think about our commitments to improving cancer outcomes.
Tom Oliver Nutrition will be donating 10% of all sales to Cancer Research UK in February to help support this great cause.
Statistically 1 in 2 people will get cancer at some point in their life. Risk increases with age. Clearly, it’s not always predictable who will get cancer and it certainly isn’t fair.
However, we do know there are some dietary and lifestyle factors that have been shown to have a protective effect against many types of cancer. Here we’ll look at what the research says about the nutritional and dietary factors that may protect us against cancer.
Major risk factors for developing cancer include: tobacco, alcohol, ionizing and solar radiations, certain occupations, infectious agents, obesity, poor dietary habits, ageing and physical inactivity (1). Rates of cancer are expected to rise due to the growth of the ageing population and prevalence of these risk factors.
Whilst there are some risk factors that we can’t control, most of us, in the west, can control our diets, lifestyle and nutrient intake.
Among age-related diseases, the incidence of cancer has grown substantially over the past few decades. Intriguing evidence suggests that dietary habits can manipulate the ageing process and/or its consequences and may have wide ranging health benefits (2).
Eating a diet high in fruit, vegetables, soya and fish have all been shown to be preventative against some cancers and to reduce mortality in cancer survivors (3,4).
Further research suggests that adopting a largely plant-based diet that is low in red and processed meats, dairy products, simple sugars and refined carbohydrates and limits alcohol can aid in preventing cancer (5).
Weight and Calorie Restriction
Obesity is a risk factor for cancer, whilst maintaining a healthy weight is protective.
Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy are often recommended to increase calorie and protein intake to avoid weight loss which is a common side effect of the disease and of treatment.
However, calorie restriction may slow growth of tumours and increase the efficacy of cancer therapies (6,7). That said, chronic calorie restriction has both beneficial and detrimental effects and is hard to stick to. Other forms of dietary restriction including periodic fasting, fasting-mimicking diets, and dietary restriction without a reduction in calories are all emerging as possible interventions that may help prevent and treat cancer (8). More research is needed into the effects of calorie restriction and fasting on cancer but it’s an interesting area to watch.
Dietary supplements are widely used and have the potential to improve health if appropriately targeted. Inadequate nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies adversely affect health in many ways (9). Here’s the evidence for the benefits of certain nutrients:
- Daily low-dose multivitamin supplementation prevents methylation of cancer cells (10) and has been linked to reductions in the incidence of cancer, especially among men (9). Tom Oliver’s range includes a Multivitamin and Mineral for men and one for women.
- Zinc, selenium and folate are involved in DNA repair and have anticancer properties (10). Tom Oliver’s range includes both zinc and selenium, as well as a B complex which includes folate.
- Vitamins C, D and E can help reduce side effects from chemotherapy and radiotherapy. These antioxidant vitamins have apoptotic and anti-angiogenesis potential as well as inhibitory effects against metastasis in cancer cells (11). Tom Oliver’s range includes vitamin C and vitamin D3 with K2.
- Omega 3 fatty acids, dietary polyphenols, minerals and vitamins may all be protective against cancer (10). Tom Oliver’s Omega 3 herring caviar supplement contains highly usable forms of EPA and DHA as well as vitamin E.
- Vitamins, such as D3, B6, folate and beta carotene as well as plant substances such as curcumin, piperine, sulforaphane, indole-3-carbinol, quercetin, epigallocatechin gallate and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have antitumoral activity against breast cancer and have the potential to offer a natural strategy for breast cancer prevention and recurrence (12). In addition to the nutrient supplements mentioned above Tom Oliver’s range includes curcumin with added piperine for enhanced utilisation by the body.
- Many phytochemicals from plant foods are protective against oxidative stress, inhibit cell proliferation and regulate apoptosis (7).
Recently, the importance of the microbiome in regulating many aspects of health, including cancer has been gaining ground. The gut microbiota regulates inflammation, the immune system and various metabolic functions. It’s believed that the gut microbiota, could affect cancer pathogenesis since any disturbance in the balance of the microbiota population can induce the development and progression of cancer (13).
Some mechanisms that mediate the effect of diet on cancer involve the effects of microbial metabolites produced by the gut microbiota. These are strongly influenced by dietary factors (7). Findings from the American Gut Project suggest that eating 30 or more different plant foods a week has a beneficial effect on the gut microbiome.
Tom Oliver’s probiotics are a good place to start if you want to improve the balance of organisms in your gut.
We live in a complicated and uncertain world in which there are many risk factors over which we have no control. However, eating a healthy diet, including a wide variety of plant foods, and taking targeted supplements can mitigate the risk of getting cancer as well as many other diseases.