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Let’s Dispel Some Nutritional Myths

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June 27, 2019

Making smart dietary choices is not always easy. Slimming products, superfoods and extravagant diets may all seem attractive, but miracle diets just don’t exist. Nutritionists agree do on one healthy-eating approach: balanced meals.

What does healthy eating mean?

- Opt for lots of fruits and vegetables

- Choose foods high in dietary fibre

- Moderate your alcohol consumption

- Limit your saturated fat and red meat

- Favour fresh plants and foods over ultra-processed products

Why eat well?

A plethora of scientific articles have demonstrated the benefits of a healthy diet. Many studies show that eating a balanced diet is associated with a significant reduction in cancer incidence and mortality. [SB1]

Myths that endure

You’ll find online a wide range of diets and miracle foods all claimed to make you healthy and help you lose weight. However, exercise caution before changing your eating habits. Make sure that the information is coming from reliable sources and that more than one health professional supports the idea.

Here is some information on cancer-related nutritional myths.

1. The unfounded power of antioxidants

Free radicals are unstable molecules that form naturally in the body and can cause cellular damage. Antioxidants can neutralize them and protect us.

Believing that an antioxidant-rich diet can prevent or cure cancer is a popular trend.

But it’s false! No study has clearly demonstrated any such benefits. A varied diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, provides plenty of antioxidants. [SB2]


2. Does soy cause cancer?

The benefits of vegetable proteins have been proven. Tofu, tempeh and soybeans are ever more popular. Some women fear consuming soy products because these latter contain phytoestrogens.

Since phytoestrogen molecules are similar to estrogens, it has been suggested that they have a proliferative effect on breast cells.

But that’s false! Studies have shown that it is safe to consume soy products in moderation without increasing your risk of cancer recurrence. Phytoestrogens have 1,000 times less affinity for estrogen receptors than natural or synthetic hormones[SB3].

However, take note that phytoestrogen supplements are contraindicated if you have been diagnosed with a hormone-dependent cancer.

Beware of miracle diets

The promises of miracle diets—ketogenic, gluten-free, fasting, juicing, etc.—pile up.

Some suggest they prevent cancer, reduce treatment-related side effects or even improve the chances of recovery. How can you possibly make sense of it all?

Few studies have shown conclusive results for such diets. Conversely, these latter can lead to deficiencies that are actually detrimental to your health or recovery. While some diets can be beneficial, others can affect your overall nutrition or interfere with your treatment. Please consult a healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet [SB4].

[SB1]World Cancer Research Fund International/American Institute for Cancer Research Continuous Update Project Report: Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Breast Cancer. 2017, revised 2018 (online) http://www.aicr.org/continuous-update-project/reports/breast-cancer-report-2017.pdf

 [SB2]Saeidnia S, Abdollahi M. (2013). Antioxidants: friends or foe in prevention or treatment of cancer: the debate of the century. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 271(1):49-63.

 [SB3]Zhang, F. F., et al (2017). Dietary isoflavone intake and all‐cause mortality in breast cancer survivors: The Breast Cancer Family Registry. Cancer, 123(11), 2070-2079.

Thompson LU et al. (2006). Phytoestrogen content of foods consumed in Canada, including isoflavones, lignans, and coumestan. Nutrition and cancer, 54(2), 184-201.

 [SB4]Extenso.org. Bien s’alimenter quand on a le cancer du sein (online).