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Title: Diet for Cancer Patients - Helen Kennedy
Description: The podcast answers many important questions that many patients suffering
from various cancers would want the answers to like 'what to eat?' and 'how much
alcohol to consume?'. Dietician Helen Kennedy explains how to reduce the environmental
factors that may increase/ influence the development of cancer within the body. It is also
very useful for cancer patients who want to know how to maintain a healthy lifestyle
despite their condition.
Diet and Nutrition for Health and Wellbeing
About 1/3rd of all cancers are thought to be preventable by changing our diet and lifestyle.
There are 3 important elements of a healthy lifestyle: maintaining a healthy weight; taking
regular physical activity and following a healthy diet and the choices you make in relation to
these factors can reduce your risk of developing cancer.
The dietary information we are giving you is based on 2007 World Cancer Research Fund
(WCRF) recommendations. The panel looked at over 7000 scientific studies relating nutrition
and prevention of cancer.
By following these recommendations every day, you and your family will dramatically
reduce your risk of cancer and greatly improve your chances of enjoying good health
throughout life.
There are three main elements of cancer prevention: weight, physical activity and diet and
I’ll take each of these in turn.
Following a healthy diet and lifestyle is all about getting the balance right
We need to make long term changes to the foods we eat, our physical activity levels as well
as maintaining a healthy weight. You may not be able to make all these changes
immediately; but be able to small gradual changes over time .
The recommendations are suitable for all the family to follow- a diet for cancer prevention is
also protective against other long term diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
We will discuss the 10 Recommendations from World Cancer Research Fund for a healthy
diet and lifestyle and answer some frequently asked questions about them.
The first recommendation is to Be As Lean AS Possible Without Becoming Overweight
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important things that you can do to reduce
your risk of cancer. It also reduces the risk of other chronic disease such as heart disease
and diabetes.
What is a healthy Weight? The easiest way to do this is perhaps to ask your GP or practice
nurse to take your BMI for you., your Body Mass Index (BMI). This calculates the range of
healthy weights for different heights and is a useful guide for most adults.
Your can measure your own BMI by converting your weight into Kilograms (Kg) and your
height into metres (m).
Divide your weight by your height squared. This figure is your BMI.
A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 25. If the figure is below 18.5 means that you are
underweight and over 25 means that you are overweight. A BMI over 30 means that you are
very overweight significantly and therefore we can make some changes. It is important to be
within the healthy weight range to protect against cancer.
Measuring your waist is another good way of checking if you’re a healthy weight. This can
be done accurately by placing a tape measure around your waist at the narrowest point
between your ribs and the top of your hip bone. Make sure the tape fits snugly but doesn’t
compress your skin. Always take the measurement after breathing out.
A healthy waist measurement for a man is less than 37 inches or 94cm and for women it’s
less than 31.5 inches or 80cm.
Research studies have shown that there is a link between being overweight and cancer,
because excess fat affects the hormonal balance of our body. Women who are overweight
are known to produce more oestrogen, which in turn increases their risk of breast cancer
and other cancers.
Studies have also shown that fat stored around the waist- apple shaped people have higher
circulating levels of ‘growth hormones’ which are also linked to a higher risk of cancer.
To eat a Diet For a Healthy Weight
Choose foods lower in energy density
Foods to avoid would be things like fast foods, sugary drinks and energy dense foods and
snacks and things like cakes, biscuits, pastries and any sweet food and confectionary.
Try and be physically active, this would help keep to a healthy weight.
Keep an eye on portion sizes
The second recommendation is around physical activity. The World Cancer Research Fund
recommends that people should try and be physically active for at least 30 minutes every
Physical activity helps to reduce cancer risk and exercise helps us to avoid weight gain but
research has shown that activity itself can directly help to prevent cancer. Regular physical
activity is also known to prevent heart disease and stroke.
30 minutes of moderate activity everyday suggested as a starting point, which we should try
and build up to 60 minutes a day of moderate activity or 30 minutes of more vigorous
Moderate activity is any kind of activity that makes your heart beat faster and makes you
breathe more deeply.. E.g. walking briskly, swimming, dancing, cycling, walking up the stairs,
gardening and housework.
More Vigorous activity is an activity which raises your heart rate even further, makes you
out of breath and sweaty. Activities could include things like hill walking or cycling , running
or aerobic classes.
The third recommendation is around the avoidance of sugary drinks and limiting the
consumption of energy dense foods
Energy dense foods are those processed foods high in added sugar, fat or low in fibre.
Choosing healthy foods and drinks instead of high sugar, high fat or energy dense foods not
only helps us avoid being overweight but also reduce our cancer risk.
High energy dense foods are things like snack foods, chocolate, crisps and biscuits and
processed foods like burgers, chips, fried foods and sugary drinks. These foods contain more
than 225-275 Kcals per 100g.
Try and eat more of the lower energy dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, pulses. These
kind of foods help to feel you up and contain plenty of fibre
The next recommendation is to eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains
and pulses
Evidence shows that basing our meals on plant foods such as vegetables, wholegrains, and
pulses such as beans which contain fibre and other nutrients can reduce our risk of cancer.
When preparing a meal try and fill at least two-thirds of your plate with plant foods such as
rice, vegetables, pasta, lentils and cereals.
These foods are less energy dense which means that they can help us maintain a healthy
Vegetables and fruits have been shown to protect against a wide variety of cancers such as
cancers of the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, lung, prostate and pancreas.
Foods containing dietary fibre have also been shown to reduce the risk of bowel cancer,
including wholemeal bread, pasta, oats, vegetables and fruits.
It is also important to remember you 5 a day- that’s five portions of fruits and vegetables
The fifth recommendation is around our meat consumption. It has been recommended
that we reduce our consumption of red meat (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid
processed meats
To reduce your cancer risk, eat no more than 550g cooked weight per week of red meats
such as beef, pork, lamb and avoid processed meats such as ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs
and some sausages.
It is important to reduce the amount of red meat we eat and increase the amount of white
meat, things like chicken, turkey and fish has shown to be particularly beneficial. Red meat
contains Haem, which is known to damage DNA and is linked to an increased risk of bowel
cancer. Processed meat are also known to increase the risk of bowel cancer. Studies have
also shown that people who eat a lot of meat then to eat less plant-based foods. The good
news is that eating white meat and fish can reduce your risk of cancer. Try and cut down the
amount of meat you eat by making every other evening meal meat free or halving the
amount of meat you use in recipes and adding more pulses, lentils and beans.
The sixth recommendation is about alcohol intake.
There is evidence that alcohol increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, oesophagus, breast
and bowel.
Alcohol is known to directly damage cell DNA increasing the risk of cancer.
So how much alcohol is a safe limit?
It is recommended that we limit our alcoholic drinks to 2 a day for men and one for women.
A drink contains roughly 10-15g of pure alcohol and is equivalent to half a pint of beer or
lager, one 25ml measure of spirit or one 125ml glass of wine.
Top tips for reducing your alcohol intake include:
Trying to keep a few nights a week alcohol free, alternate between non-alcoholic and
alcoholic drinks.
Alcoholic drinks also contain a lot of calories and few other nutrients e.g a pint of beer
contains about 250 kcals and a standard glass of wine of 125ml contains 85 kcals. Cutting
down your alcohol intake could play an important role in helping you to lose weight or
maintain a healthy weight, and so reduce your cancer risk.
The next recommendation is about salt and food processed with salt.
Consuming too much salt can be harmful to our health increasing our risk particularly of
stomach cancer as well as high blood pressure.
Our daily salt intake should be about 6g per day.
About ¾ of the salt intake we have comes from processed food, therefore if we try and eat
more fresh food rather than processed food, we naturally reduce the amount we consume.
The next recommendation is about dietary supplements, things like vitamin and mineral
tablets and other supplements.
To reduce our risk of cancer, choose a balanced diet with a wide variety of foods rather than
taking dietary supplements.
Research has shown that high dose of some supplements of some nutrients can affect the
risk of different cancers. The message is if you are eating a healthy diet, there is no need to
take any added supplements.
The next recommendation is particularly for mothers who are breastfeeding and the
recommendation is mothers should breastfeed their babies exclusively for up to 6
The last recommendation concerns advice for people who have finished their cancer
treatment. If you have finished your cancer treatment, it is recommended that you also
follow this type of diet which can be protective against a secondary cancer or other
diseases such as Osteoporosis.