Every now and then we read and hear about ‘superfoods’, which supposedly decrease the risk of cancer or some other harmful foods which increase the risk of cancer. The veracity of these claims remains unproven, but there seems to be no end to controversies related to cancer. Read on further and find out for yourself if the theories regarding food are really worth trusting.
Acrylamide content in certain foods
Acrylamide is a chemical which is produced as a result of starchy food being heated to very high temperatures and is found in some types of bread, crisps and chips. It is known to damage DNA and hence categorized as a carcinogen. In 2002 a Swedish study suggested that there are many foods which contain high levels of this chemical.
This caused a scare but later studies proved that most foods contain very low levels of acrylamide, which cannot be considered dangerous. So the doubts about acrylamide could be based on insufficient or flawed data.
In recent times, a study carried out in Netherlands also suggested that acrylamide could increase the risk of some types of cancers, like those of ovaries and womb. Some more study is required to prove this. Moreover, this claim could be unique to Netherlands only, because the Dutch consume a spiced cake which is somewhat like gingerbread and contains too much of acrylamide.
The bitter news about artificial sweeteners
Many foods and drinks contain artificial sweeteners. Extensive studies about artificial sweeteners conclude that they are not responsible for cancer risk. In the 80s some studies pointed out that saccharin, an artificial sweetener, caused cancer of the bladder in rats. But it has been proven that the risk is not relevant for humans.
Another article linked aspartame, another sweetener, to brain cancer but this theory was also found baseless as the European Food Safety Authority pointed out some flaws in the study. Newer sweeteners in the market need to be studied to determine their effects.
Is green tea really a wonder drink?
Studies carried out in Asian countries strongly suggested that green tea was capable of reducing cancer risk, particularly those of breast, mouth, stomach, prostate, food pipe and bowel. On the other hand, studies in Western countries have not found any such evidence.
This could be attributed to the fact that Westerners mostly drink black tea while Asians drink more of green tea, which contains high levels of catechins. Catechins is the name given to a group of chemicals which can block cancer growth and arrest DNA damage. Studies have shown that cathechins clean up free radicals and deter tumor cells from growing as well as stop cancer causing chemicals from getting activated.
More studies and clinical trials are needed to prove that green tea can, in fact, decrease the risk of some types of cancers.
Does soy help?
Some studies suggest that consuming soy products could reduce the risk of cancers of breast, prostate and bowel. Isoflavones, a group of chemicals, which are similar to human hormone estrogen, are found in soy. Some studies lay down that soy isoflavones can take the place of estrogen and reduce the risk of cancers caused by hormonal imbalance. Again, some studies say that isoflavones could increase estrogen levels and thus increase the risk of cancer. So the effect of soy, whether good or bad, still needs to be verified by extensive clinical trials.
Lycopene is a chemical found in all variations of tomatoes, be it fresh tomatoes or tinned, paste ketchup or juice. It is an antioxidant capable of cleaning up free radicals that can harm the DNA.
Though some studies have suggested that tomatoes and the resultant high lycopene levels could lower the risk of prostate cancer, not all studies have come to the same conclusion.
The best diet to reduce your risk of cancer in one which helps you stay fit and maintain a healthy body weight.