A study recently published in Nutrients details the connection between certain types of diets and an increased cancer risk. The research team was composed of scientists from multiple research groups, including the Molecular Mechanisms and Experimental Therapy in Oncology Program (Oncobell) and the Biodonostia Health Research Institute (BHRI). The study showed a correlation between two types of diets, inflammatory and antioxidant, and an increased risk of getting colorectal or breast cancer.
The study was primarily funded by the Spanish Association Against Cancer. The work was led by Dr. Pilar Amiano, the principal investigator at BHRI, and Dr. Victor Moreno. The published work was done by Dr. Mireia Obon-Santacana from Oncobell. Mireia Obon-Santacana said the researchers found some sort of connection between an inflammatory diet and colorectal cancer. The association was very clear. She said that an inflammatory diet almost doubled a person’s risk of getting colorectal cancer, one of the top five common cancers in the entire world.
The doctors did note, however, that the increase in breast cancer risk from inflammatory diets was way less significant. Obon said she thinks more studies are needed to see if other factors may have influenced that part of their study. It could be that diet was not the deciding factor in increased risk of breast cancer.
What is an Inflammatory Diet?
A diet is considered “inflammatory” if it includes a lot of the things that are traditionally considered unhealthy. This includes things like red or processed meat and saturated fats. In contrast, an antioxidant diet will usually include things like vegetables, fruits, and nuts in high volume. Moreno said the difference between these two diets was the focal point of the study. He says it’s clear that the diets that cause chronic inflammation influence the development of cancer. Specifically, it seems to help colorectal cancer take root and develop further.
Obon said the good thing about identifying these diets as a risk factor is that they are can be easily changed. To prevent these cancers, people can simply alter their diets. Obon says it is important for people to conform their diets to the standards set by governmental agencies who have done extensive studies on healthy eating. She says that her belief is that all people should move more towards a Mediterranean diet, one that is rich is veggies, fruits, nuts, and healthy oils. The Mediterranean diet is full of antioxidants. As a result, it’s much less inflammatory.
Obon went on further to say that the education system has an important role to play in showing younger people how these types of foods and diets can contribute to cancer. By educating them early, we can help children make the right choices about food and reduce the risk of cancer as a result.
The study drew only from the Spanish population. Further studies will be needed to assess its impact on an international scale.