Revealed: The most common myths and misconceptions surrounding the connection between diet and cancer

The popular trend toward intravenous vitamins may interfere with chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments, according to a new guide for cancer patients.

The science-based information on the link between diet and cancer was produced by Breakthrough Cancer Research and University College Cork.

It indicated that more than half of cancer survivors felt confused by the nutritional information available in the media and offered by those around them.

Almost 4 in 10 followed or had tried alternative diets by limiting certain foods to herbal remedies, juicing or detoxing, and 3 in 10 said they avoided certain foods such as processed meat or dairy.

In response to the lack of science-based information for cancer patients and the general public interested in the connection between diet and cancer, and the sometimes dangerous alternative diets that people are experimenting with, Breakthrough Cancer Research and University College Cork have created a new one Brochure published addressing ‘The Truth Behind Food and Cancer’ published today at the Irish Association for Cancer Research Annual Conference.

Written and compiled by Dr. Aoife Ryan, UCC, and Clodagh Scannell RD, Senior Cancer/Oncology Dietitians, along with Consultant Medical Oncologist Dr. Derek Power and research nutritionist Michelle Hanna BSc, UCC, it provides accurate information on fad diets that have not yet been proven to be safe or effective in preventing or treating cancer.

It debunks the most common myths and misconceptions surrounding the links between diet and cancer, providing simple explanations and advice based on medical evidence.

The advice says:

• Soy: There is no link between the consumption of soy and cancer.

• Vitamin and mineral supplements – these should not be necessary. People should take a first approach to food. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy or fortified non-dairy alternatives, good quality lean meats and fish, and healthy fats from oils, nuts, and seeds is an important part of cancer prevention. Vitamins and minerals are best obtained through food. An exception is vitamin D, which is recommended for all adults in Ireland between October and March.

• Vitamin infusions: There is no evidence that the administration of vitamin C or other vitamins by intravenous infusion can cure or treat cancer. It is not currently recommended by any major international cancer organization. It has been suggested that high doses of antioxidants such as vitamin C may reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

• Organic: There is no clear evidence that organic foods reduce the risk of cancer.

• Superfoods: There is no single food or nutrient that can prevent or cure cancer. Claims about superfoods are often very misleading. It has also been suggested that high doses of turmeric may interact with some chemotherapy drugs, making them less effective. Cancer patients who are taking spices or herbal remedies must inform their oncology team.

• Dairy products: There is no clear evidence that dairy products are associated with an increased risk of cancer. The myth that dairy is linked to cancer often stems from concerns the public has about the addition of hormones to dairy and meat products. In Europe, adding hormones to milk or meat is strictly forbidden, and selling meat from countries that allow the addition of hormones is also illegal. So there is no need to worry about this.

• Sugar: Limiting the amount of sugar you eat has not been proven to slow or control the growth of cancer cells. Sugar does not have to be avoided entirely and can be included in a balanced diet. However, there is an indirect link between sugar and cancer. Eating many foods with added sugars, such as Eating foods such as carbonated drinks, chocolate, cookies and cakes can increase your risk of being overweight or obese, which increases your risk of cancer. You don’t have to do without fruit because of the sugar content. Fruit is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals that are very beneficial to your health.

• Artificial sweeteners: Large studies have shown that there is no link between artificial sweeteners and an increased risk of cancer

• Ketogenic Diet: The ketogenic diet, which is a high-fat, moderate-to-low protein, and very low-carbohydrate diet, is not recommended for cancer patients or for cancer prevention.

Other areas addressed are intermittent fasting, alkaline nutrition, juicing and detoxification, Gerson therapy, coffee enemas, apricot kernels & vitamin B17 and alternative treatment centers. The booklet also contains simple healthy eating advice and top tips during chemotherapy and cancer treatment, as well as recipes and suggestions for nutritious meals.

The Truth Behind Food and Cancer strongly recommends that anyone undergoing cancer treatment speak with their counselor and oncology team before making any changes to their diet or adding any supplements, as doing so could interfere with cancer treatment.

One of the authors, Clodagh Scannell, said of this new resource: “Research shows that nearly 60 per cent of Irish cancer survivors feel confused about messages related to cancer and diet and 37 per cent have tried an alternative dietary strategy that has been detrimental to their overall health could affect health.

“Today there is a lot of misinformation in the media and the goal of this resource is to provide people who have been diagnosed with cancer with accurate and reliable information, backed by scientific evidence who have been diagnosed with cancer, and to reassure them that the Nutrition doesn’t have to be too complicated.”

Commenting on the publication of The Truth Behind Food and Cancer, co-author D. Aoife Ryan said: “People choose supplemental or alternative diets for a variety of reasons. They may hope to prevent cancer or improve their symptoms and reduce the side effects of treatment. You can try to boost your immune system. They may even hope to cure their illness or reduce the risk of it coming back. Some of the people interviewed say they follow certain diets to gain some control over their cancer.

“Thanks to a generous grant from Breakthrough Cancer Research, we are now able to bring scientific and evidence-based information about the link between cancer and diet to the public.”

Prof Michaela Higgins, President of the Irish Society of Medical Oncology (ISMO), said: “Patients and their carers often seek advice on diet and nutrition whilst undergoing cancer treatment. This new brochure offers sound advice backed by scientific sources. It is very important that you let your healthcare team know if you are considering changing your diet or taking any supplements, as some of these may interfere with or cause harm to your treatment. ISMO is happy to support this helpful, free resource.”

Louise Reynolds of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute added: “With so much information on the internet, it can be difficult for people with cancer to know where to turn to for reliable advice. We are pleased to be able to support this new brochure, which contains simple explanations based on scientific knowledge.

“It was written by registered dietitians specializing in oncology and a medical oncologist. It’s great that Breakthrough Cancer Research is making this vital resource available to patients at no cost, something that hasn’t been available before. It offers clear, evidence-based advice from those experienced with the nutritional needs of cancer patients. We have no doubt that it will be extremely helpful for patients.” Revealed: The most common myths and misconceptions surrounding the connection between diet and cancer

Fry Electronics Team

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