Yediot Achronot – 24 Hours – “Healthy Times”
May 11, 2014
By: Odit Danino
Many myths have evolved about foods that can prevent cancer or stimulate its development. The staff of dieticians at the “New Beginning Center” attempt to put things in order and sort out the superstitions from the nutritional principles that can cause real change.
Our lifestyle and body weight play an important role in the delay, development or prevention of various types of cancer. In addition, many of those who have had cancer and undergone treatments are interested in sticking to a diet that will help prevent recurrence of the illness. It is therefore not surprising that so many myths evolved around the subject – for example, that sugar “stimulates” cancerous cells, or that is it better to restrict oneself to organic foods. But what are these theories based on? Not always on scientific studies or expert opinion. So what should we believe and whom should we rely on? Clinical dietician Orit Danino and the staff of dieticians at Ezer Mizion’s “New Beginning Center” help us sort out the most common myths.
Myth: Coffee increases risk of getting cancer.
Incorrect: The latest studies show that drinking up to six cups of coffee a day will not increase risk for most kinds of cancer. You can drink moderate amounts of coffee without compunctions, but it should be done as part of a healthy diet that includes watching your weight.
Myth: Overweight increases the chances of recurrence of cancer and can lead to cancer appearing in other places.
Correct: There are more and more proofs indicating a connection between overweight and increased risk of getting cancer, of the illness recurring, and of reducing the chances of survival in some types of cancer. A correlation was seen between weight gain and a rise in the death rate in all kinds of combination cancers and a rise in the frequency of cancer in certain specific tissues, including cancers of the esophagus, intestines, rectum, liver, bladder, pancreas, kidney, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and multiple myeloma, in addition to certain types of stomach and prostate cancer in men and breast, uterine, cervical, and ovarian cancer in women.
Avoiding excessive weight gain in adults is important not only so as to reduce the frequency of cancer and its recurrence, but also in order to minimize the chances of developing other chronic illnesses.
Myth: Sugar “feeds” cancer.
Incorrect: Sugar consumption has not been seen to cause a noticeable rise in the risks of getting cancer or to affect its progress. At the same time, sugars and sweetened drinks (which are generally the main source of sugars of this kind) add empty calories to the diet and are likely to cause weight gain, and that – as we have seen – does have a definite negative influence on cancer risk.
Myth: Organic foods are preferable and recommended for cancer survivors.
Incorrect: The term “organic” includes vegetarian foods that were grown without use of insecticides or genetic engineering. In the case of meat, chicken, eggs, and dairy products, “organic” means that their source is animals which were not given antibiotics or growth hormones.
It is commonly thought that organic foods are healthier, since they were exposed to fewer chemicals. The claim is also made that their nutritional composition is better than that of corresponding non-organic foods. But is consumption of organic foods really healthier? This is unknown. Up until now, no research studies done on humans have indicated that these foods are more effective in minimizing cases of cancer or reducing recurrence of the illness or its progress, as compared to foods that are non-organic and have been grown with other techniques.
Myth: Alcohol consumption increases the risks of cancer recurrence.
Correct: Many studies have shown a connection between alcohol consumption and the risk of getting a number of types of cancer, among them cancer of the mouth, pharynx, throat, esophagus, liver, breast, and possibly also the colon for people who were already diagnosed with cancer.
Myth: Fasting or a juice diet cleans out poisons from the body.
Incorrect: The body has its own system for cleaning out poisons, which involves the liver, kidneys, spleen, and immune system. There is absolutely no scientific proof that fasting or drinking juices and/or lemon juice alone for limited periods will do the job any better. In general, a juice diet or “poison-cleaning” diet leads to weight loss, but in most cases, this weight loss is fleeting, since it is based on loss of muscle mass, bone mass, and body fluids. In some medical conditions, this kind of diet may even be considered dangerous. Cancer research associations do not recommend fasting or a juice diet. They do recommend a diet based on a range of vegetarian foods: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. These must be supplemented by low-fat milk products, protein sources such as chicken and fish, and vegetarian fat such as olive oil, nuts, avocado and tehina.
Myth: Physical activity promotes recovery from cancer.
Correct: There is solid proof that physical activity is not only safe and possible during cancer treatment, but can also improve physical functioning and quality of life. Studies indicate that moderate physical exercise alleviates fatigue and weakness, promotes self-esteem and cardiovascular fitness, and has a positive effect on muscle mass and body composition.
SPECIAL SERVICE: DAY OF COUNSELING FOR CANCER SURVIVORS
A result of the sharp rise in the number of people surviving cancer, a need has emerged for specialization in patient care for the period following the conclusion of treatments. Studies show that during the convalescence period, just when the patient is beginning to “get back into routine,” not insignificant difficulties arise in areas such as side effects of the illness and treatments, changes in sexual functioning, psychological problems, coping with fears and anxiety, occupational difficulties, and more.
The New Beginning Center founded by Ezer Mizion is the first of its kind in Israel, providing medical counseling, support, and guidance for cancer survivors during this sensitive time. The Center offers a unique “Counseling Day,” which includes five sessions with experts from a variety of areas, such as nutrition, marital medicine, social work, psychology, and more. The objective of the Center is to provide the survivors with a “tool box” that will help them return to a normal life track.
The Counseling Day is at no cost to the patient.