Can healthier eating improve cancer survival?
What we eat has one of the biggest determinants of our health. Now a study suggests adopting a diverse diet while consuming “foods in moderation” may be enough to slash cancer survivors’ death risk by 65 percent.
Variety is a key component of a general healthy diet, but many food studies related to cancer survival have focused on foods that should be avoided or consumed by people who have had specific forms of the disease. So, researchers at the University of Florida decided to investigate the benefits of an overall healthful diet for cancer survivors. The findings were published in the journal JNCI Cancer Spectrum.
Data on almost 1,200 cancer survivors allowed the researchers to measure the quality of the participants’ diets. The researchers also examined mortality records, finding that during a 17-year-long follow-up period, 607 study participants who had been diagnosed with cancer had died.
The study found that cancer survivors with a high Healthy Eating Index score had a 65 percent lower chance of dying from cancer compared with cancer survivors whose diet was of inferior quality. Eating an overall healthy diet was associated with decreased mortality risk, whether it was mortality from any cause or cancer-specific mortality.
Although the study was observational and does not prove causation, intuitively this makes complete sense. Epidemiologists’ tell us that variation in life expectancy is more due to the sociocultural environment than to genes or the physical environment, with the big factors being smoking, what we eat and how much we abuse alcohol or drugs. These along with high levels of blood sugar and blood pressure, both of which are heavily influenced by diet, are the main factors dictating poor health. Healthier eating habits make a critical difference. What would be interesting to discover is how many of the group improved their habits because of the cancer – and how many didn’t.
Whether you are young or old, healthier living = smarter aging.
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