I’m for everyone who encourages fruits and vegetables and maintains a healthy weight. But self-proclaimed healthy eating gurus like the Happy Pear dudes — twins Stephen and David Flynn — should stick to selling their vegan wares and not get carried away by false cancer hopes.
The twins got into hot water when an ad for their latest podcast featured a breast cancer prevention checklist that included eating mushrooms and soy products (two to three times a day—yeah, who’s got the time?). This advert was criticized by health professionals.
Whether you have 500,000 followers or a handful, you need to be careful about what you post about cancer.
We all know someone who is suffering or has recovered, and there’s this lingering fear, among the over-40s anyway, that we might be next.
Last month, the HSE said it expects demand for cancer treatments to grow 10 percent to 12 percent this year due to pandemic setbacks and cyberattacks.
That grim prognosis, combined with a perceived increase in media coverage of cancer survivors telling their stories and offering advice on how to circumvent them, has led to increased anxiety — or maybe that’s just me.
It is reassuring to know that we can mitigate the risk, but many factors are at play and it is important that those working in cancer care listen to professionals and not get caught up in simple solutions that can exploit their insecurities.
When you are ill you are vulnerable and information that says you could have prevented it is not easy to handle. During treatment, you first have to have the surgery, get through the chemo, and then you can start your diet and lose weight. You have to get through to the other side and there is solace in eating the food you like.
When my mother was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, she was upset for leading such a healthy lifestyle with some treats on the side, but her doctor explained that it was inevitable and that she should maintain her balanced Mediterranean diet and the treats that would help her recover.
While the cancer prevention message should never be simplified, health professionals need to make more noise about the obesity link and then offer realistic help to make it happen.
Most of us probably don’t realize just how strong this link is, as information from Cancer Research UK’s website says it’s estimated that over one in 20 cases of cancer in the UK is caused by obesity. The latest confirmation of this is a study the charity released last week, with Bristol University showing that cervical cancer is one of the types most closely linked to obesity.
To be fair, the Happy Pear guys said in the same ad with the mushroom and soy information that people should aim for a healthy weight. But they also recommended people to put away 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day — which will only be easy for people who spend a lot of time planning their food intake.
For those of us guilty of going for the second slice of cream and not inhaling numerous bags of spinach daily, it’s harder.
Doesn’t the World Health Organization say five a day anyway? There was sound advice from a 2019 study in which lancetwhich concluded that a fifth of premature deaths around the world can be attributed to a poor diet – not enough fresh vegetables, seeds and nuts and high amounts of sugar, salt and trans fats.
Most of the 11 million such deaths were from cardiovascular disease, with one million from cancer, but the study — funded by Bill and Melinda Gates — suggested adding more healthy foods rather than intimidating people into what they’ve already eaten.
Perhaps a more nuanced approach is needed to stay more on a healthy trajectory — a system where you keep the bacon but increase your intake of things like avocado and Brazil nuts.
Not to put all the blame on the Happy Pear, they’re just a small part of the green machinery, but it really wasn’t surprising that their “apology” on Monday, when it was clear they’d caused offense, angered many.
While some people naturally look pleased with themselves (someone once told me I had a smug demeanor), their “sorry, not sorry” was superficial – they could have accepted an award with that big grin.
dr Liz O’Riordan is the Suffolk-based breast surgeon who, along with Irish science writer Dr. David Grimes made the video in which she lays out her claims.
She told me why she felt it was important to do this and why the apology gave people support.
“I got so many messages. People were upset as with cancer there is always a sense of shame that it could be prevented. The cancer community is vulnerable and will believe anything,” she said.
She said so many advertise a simple solution to prevent cancer, but the reality is boring.
“There are so many influencers touting supplements and fad diets, but eating a balanced diet, drinking less than five units a week, and being at a healthy weight help reduce risk,” she said.
dr O’Riordan, with a PhD in molecular oncology, co-wrote The Complete Guide to Breast Cancer and had breast cancer twice. She can speak with emotion when she says the apology was insufficient, as she does not explain that the claims made in an interview with a medical professional were taken out of context and posted as facts.
I agree dr O’Riordan: It’s insensitive to suggest that you can avoid cancer by doing certain things because it makes people feel guilty on some level.
It’s complex, however, because many of us realize that eating healthier could help reduce risk. Reasonable advice is required and anyone who makes wild claims has to reach into their (vegetable) box again.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/those-peddling-dietary-advice-on-cancer-need-to-get-back-in-their-vegetable-box-41594667.html Those who peddle cancer-fighting diet advice need to go back to their veggie bin