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Determining the correct diet after a cancer diagnosis

Adherence to a Mediterranean-style eating strategy reduces the risk to colon and breast cancer.
Credit: Adobe Stock

In 2018, the World Health Organization said the prevalence of a cancer diagnosis reached 18.1 million people – with 9.6 million cancer deaths.  Positive lifestyle – such as exercise and diet – reduce the risk to certain forms of cancer.

Adherence to a Mediterranean-style eating strategy – higher intake of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, limited lean meat, fish, and olive oil - reduces the risk to colon and breast cancer.

Research is still searching for the optimum plan once an individual is diagnosed with cancer. According to The Facts About Food After Cancer Diagnosis: A Systematic Review of Prospective Cohort Studies, which appeared in the August 2020 issue of the online, peer reviewed journal Nutrients, “to prevent malnutrition, energy and protein requirements for cancer patients are largely widespread by international guidelines, but little is known about the food choices and dietary regimen a cancer patient should benefit from.”

The Italian study researchers point out that, “many ‘cancer diets’ are often restrictive, avoiding a whole nutrient class (i.e., meat or dairy products) in the misleading belief that certain foods “feed the tumor.”

The Italians sought to determine any possible associations between diet patterns, after a cancer patient’s diagnosis, that is affected by a solid tumor, relative to outcomes – mortality, cancer progression, and recurrence.

Those study criteria included a meta-analyses (similar studies) that used an adult population over 18 years of age diagnosed with breast, gastrointestinal, gynecological, lung, and urological cancers; post-diagnosis dietary patterns – such as consumption of fruit, vegetables, diary, meat, fish, and cereals; prospective or retrospective cohort studies; over-all survival, all-cause mortality, cancer-specific mortality, death from a non-cancer cause, cancer progression, disease-free survival, cancer recurrence, and recurrence-free survival.

The study authors determined that, “the overall results of this systematic review highlight that none of the food categories should be eliminated by cancer patients. Especially, there is no clear association between consumption of meat or animal products and cancer progression/recurrence or CSM (cancer specific survival), after a cancer diagnosis.”

However, the Italians also emphasized there was, “a significant positive association between detrimental dietary patterns, such as Western-type Diet (characterized by processed meats, sugar-sweetened soft drinks, and refined grains) and cancer progression.”

Note the investigators, “on the contrary, high consumption of fiber, such as whole grain cereals, green and cruciferous vegetables, seem to be protective against cancer progression and mortality.”

In conclusion, “detrimental dietary patterns, such as the Western Diet and the high consumption of some food categories (saturated/trans fats, high-fat dairy products) could worsen prognostic outcomes in breast, colorectal and prostate cancer patients. Nevertheless, animal proteins, such as fish, poultry, low-fat dairy products and meat, should not be excluded from cancer patient’s diet.”

More research is needed relative to a cancer post-diagnostic diet, as it applies to the most common forms of cancer – lung, stomach, gynecological, bladder, and pancreatic cancer.

For more information, go to maxwellnutrition.com.