Research on Whole Foods as a Cancer Preventative

On December 9, 2012 by Robin Z

**This post is part of the Get Real series. Please remember that this is meant as a learning community. We know that many of you are passionate about what you do and we want you to express that, just please do so in a way that will be an encouragement and aid to others making a transition. We want this to be a “safe space” for participants to learn. For that reason, we reserve the right to delete any comments that are not handled in this manner.

Today we welcome Christi Simpson as our guest writer. We think the work she does is fantastic!

In my work as a Clinical Research Coordinator at the James, I have the privilege of contributing in small part to cutting-edge cancer research. Different from the numerous chemotherapy and radiation trials conducted here at OSU, my lab studies Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention. Within that broad category falls the study of “dietary and nutritional components that may enhance or inhibit the carcinogenesis cascade.” My main contribution to this team is recruiting patients to a number of chemopreventive trials studying the effect of whole foods and/or exercise intervention on certain cancers.

As a part of this growing effort towards preventing cancer rather than simply treating it, in 2010, The OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center along with the Environmental Sciences Department began collaborating with five farming cooperatives from across Ohio and Indiana to form “Growing the Cure,” which set up a fund to support food-based research in the prevention of cancer. Their “crops to the clinic” tagline is supported by a number of foods that have already been studied at OSU, including strawberries, black raspberries, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, soy, and eggs enriched with gossypol (a derivative of cotton). These foods have been linked to the prevention and/or treatment of oral, breast, ovarian, cervical, uterine, adrenal, pancreatic, colon, and prostate cancers, among others.

Though many of these studies investigate specific nutrients and their effect on different types of cancer, the most important take-away for families and individuals outside the acute hospital setting is that a nutrient-rich, whole foods approach (in combination with physical activity) is the most effective way to prevent cancer. In this sense, the average reader of this blog would not be considered the average American, who still does not meet even the US Dietary Guideline’s suggestion of 3-5 fruit and vegetable servings daily. And this despite the fact that, while there are also genetic and environmental risk factors for cancer, the American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that 35% of the twelve most common cancers in the US could be prevented by maintaining a healthy diet, physical activity, and a healthy weight (this number does not account for the large percentage of cancers that could be prevented by not smoking).

Of the 10 recommendations made by AICR for cancer prevention, 7 of them have to do with what we should or should not consume. AICR’s website is one of the greatest resources OSU’s Registered Dietitians use in the different talks and counseling services they provide for patients at the James, and it can be a great resource for any mom, as well. Many different foods and the specific research findings linked to them are listed on the website, and others are continually added as new research comes out. You’ll find information about cancer protective foods as well as those that increase your risk. Bonus: I find that the weekly AICR email with healthy recipes simultaneously introduces healthy combinations and helps keep me out of the usual dinner rut.

As you seek to make your family’s diet healthier by cutting out processed foods and choosing more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, know that you’re also contributing to a cancer-free world!OAMM Get Real Series

Christi Simpson lives with her husband, Adam, in Columbus, OH. She is a Clinical Research Coordinator at The Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University’s James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Center, where she is also a student, planning to obtain her MS in Medical Dietetics. Were it not for the opportunity to work and study at such a great hospital, she’d be hiking out West somewhere.

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