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Cancer: Common Nutrition Related Questions and Answers

It is common to have some doubts about nutrition related to cancer. There are also a lot of studies going on to investigate the effect of certain foods towards the potential development of cancer. To solve your doubts, here are some answers that are obtained by reviewing the current studies. Enjoy reading!


#1 Does Red Meat Increase Risk of Cancer?

Consumption of red meat increases the risk of cancer, especially colorectal cancer. According to AICR, eating more than 18 ounces (510g) of red meat per week increases the risk of colorectal cancer. This is because red meat contains compounds that have been shown to damage the lining of the gut and possibly promote cancer. Besides, cooking red meat at high temperatures can also produce other cancer-causing compounds.

Red meat in the category of processed meats should be avoided, include hot dogs, sausage, bologna and chemically treated jerkies (lean meat that has been trimmed of fat, cut into strips, and then been dried to prevent spoilage).


#2 Will Eating Superfoods Prevent Cancer?

The term ‘superfood’ is often used to describe foods with supposed health ‘superpowers’, ranging from blueberries to broccoli to green tea.

According to the Cancer Research UK, the term ‘superfood’ is just a marketing tool, with little scientific basis. This term should be treated with caution as there is no evidence for any one particular food making a major difference to cancer on its own.


#3 Do Dairy Foods Increase Risk of Breast Cancer?

There is a popular belief that milk is ‘full of hormones’ and that this could increase breast cancer. However, in the European Union, cows are not injected with hormones to increase their milk production and the very low levels of hormones that milk naturally contains are unlikely to contribute to the development of breast cancer.

Other than that, the World Cancer Research Fund stated that no significant associations were observed in 8 studies on dairy products or 6 studies on milk.


#4 Do Antioxidant Supplements Help to Prevent Cancer?

Antioxidant supplements have been found to be most effective at helping improve the health and appearance of the skin. But antioxidant supplements, alone, do not help prevent cancer.

However, antioxidants supplements, along with a healthy lifestyle, can help lower your chances of developing certain cancers. Scientists speculate that the combination of antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients present in fruits and vegetables work together, in a combination that science cannot compress into a pill, to create the protective effect.

The best advice is to get your vitamins, minerals, antioxidants from your whole foods. That's the way your body likes it.


#5 Can I Drink Alcohol?

Overall, the amount of alcohol someone drinks over time, not the type of alcoholic beverage, seems to be the most important factor in raising cancer risk. Most evidence suggests that it is the ethanol that increases the risk, not other things in the drink.

Alcohol also causes liver inflammation and irritant, especially in mouth and throat. Cells that damaged by alcohol may try to repair themselves, which could lead to DNA changes that can be a step toward cancer.

Once in the body, alcohol can be converted into acetaldehyde, a chemical that can damage the DNA inside cells and has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals.

Drinking alcohol can also lead to oxidative stress in cells, causing them to create more reactive oxygen species (chemically reactive molecules that contain oxygen). These can lead to damage inside the cells that might increase the risk of cancer.

People who choose to drink alcohol should limit their intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink a day for women. The recommended limit is lower for women because of their smaller body size and because their bodies tend to break down alcohol more slowly.

In people who have already been diagnosed with cancer, alcohol intake could also affect the risk of developing new cancer.


#6 I would like to subscribe juice for 3 months. Can I do so?

People often have a misconception that juicing is a cure-all for cancer. In fact, juice should not be used to meet basic nutrient needs as it significantly reduces the consumption of multiple food groups. People who practice these methods need to be aware that it significantly reduces the amount of fibre in the diet.

However, juicing can be a great way of adding more fruits and vegetables to an already healthy diet. It is okay to stick with it if first 5 servings of fruits and vegetables come in whole food form and also have a variety of them.


#7 Is Noni Juice Good for Cancer Patients?

Only 19 studies exist on the subject of which the seven were ‘in-the-test-tube’ studies. These studies also suggest that it was the ‘concentrated component’ in noni juice and not pure noni juice that may stimulate the immune system to ‘possibly’ assist the body fight cancer from within and kill a small percentage (0–36%) of cancer cells depending on the type.

Approximately 9 of the 19 studies were ‘animal studies’ suggesting that a concentrated component in noni juice (not pure noni juice) boosts the animals’ immune systems, but only slightly increases the number (about 25–45%) of mice surviving.

Only three human clinical studies exist to date. A NIH study determined that freeze-dried noni (not noni juice) may have reduced pain perception, but that it did not reverse cancer in patients with advanced cancer.

A few studies have suggested that noni juice may reduce the risk of cancer among smokers. However, more studies are warranted to prove this. 

A healthy person can consume noni juice, however, be aware that noni juice has higher sugar content.

For cancer patient who undergoes treatment, consult your oncologist. Do not take if you are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy. This is due to noni has antioxidant effects and can interfere with treatment. Nevertheless, clinical relevance is not known yet.

Some patients with other diseases should consume noni juice with caution. Patients with renal insufficiency should consume noni juice with caution due to high potassium content. Meanwhile, patients with diabetes should consume noni juice with caution due to its high sugar content.


#8 Is Budwig Diet Better for Cancer Patients?

The Budwig diet involves eating flaxseed (linseed) oil, mixed with cottage cheese and low-fat milk. There is no reliable evidence to show that the Budwig diet can treat or prevent cancer.

Besides, consuming this diet for long term might have side effects because it doesn’t contain all the nutrients for our dietary requirements.


#9 What Can I Do to Boost My Immune System?


Take-Home Message:

There is no evidence that cancer can be cured through diet. Medical nutrition therapy prescribed for cancer patients is to manage the side effects of cancer treatment.

Follow the food safety guidelines especially when you have a low immune system during cancer treatment. This is to lower down the risk of infection and foodborne illness that might cause a serious effect on cancer patients.

To live well with cancer, the keys are having a healthy weight, eating a variety and balanced diet, be physically active, having social support and good stress management.


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  1. Baena, Raul, and Pedro Salinas. "Diet and colorectal cancer." Maturitas 80.3 (2015): 258-264.
  2. Brown, A.C. 2012. Anticancer Activity of Morinda citrifolia (Noni) Fruit: A Review. Phytotherapy Research. 2012:1-15. DOI: 10.1002/ptr.4595
  3. Kushi, Lawrence H., et al. "American Cancer Society Guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention: reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices and physical activity." CA: a cancer journal for clinicians 62.1 (2012): 30-67.
  4. Rock, Cheryl L., et al. "Nutrition and physical activity guidelines for cancer survivors." CA: a cancer journal for clinicians 62.4 (2012): 242-274.
  5. West, B.J., Deng, S., Isami, F., Uwaya, A., & Jensen, C.J. 2018. The Potential Health Benefits of Noni Juice: A Review of Human Intervention Studies. Foods.7: 58-80. doi:10.3390/foods7040058ww