Diet vs Health Risk



How good is my diet?

A question most of us ask ourselves on a regular basis. If we didn’t, slimming clubs would never do so well, and the health industry which is worth millions in the UK and billions in the US would become a thing of the past.

We like to look after ourselves to the best of our ability, with maybe some down time when we are sad or excited. There are don’t care days, and care very much days. However do we blindly follow everything we read?

Faddy diets have also stood the test of time, the grapefruit and egg diet, popular in the 1970’s still pops up now and then. The Atkins diet despite it’s fatty composition proved popular, the GI diet, works for some, however nothing beats a healthy diet, and a little bit of what you fancy, in moderation.

So I explored how regular meat eaters fare in comparison to vegan and vegetarian diet when looking at incidents of cancer. I was led to this by my own cancer diagnosis and the fact that just lately the news has been full of cancer versus diet, and noticed that the quotes were not only contradictory but the research groups were tiny, so not reflective.

One of the biggest studies, which is cited in the British Journal of Cancer, showed minimal incident rate difference between meat eaters and non-meat eaters in colon cancer. However, overall the evidence does point to vegans having a higher incident rate than meat eaters when it comes to cancer diagnosis.

The incidence rates of cancers between 1971 and 1997 up to and including age 64 years has remained reasonably stagnant yet 65 and over has seen a sharper rise. This could be a natural progression where we are living longer and therefore certain patterns may emerge.

So is our diet reflective or is it genetics? The fact that so much money is being spent on cancer research in terms of genetic testing points to a belief there is a connection. Genetic testing is available for many cancers but the reality is the genetic link is low in predicted cancer occurrence, and more likely to be a random event where a mutated cell finds a comfy home and brings it’s friends, creating a tumour. A mutant cell is a naturally occurring event in us all, the difficulty being when it settles and is no longer seen as an alien invader.

So can diet change this? There has been many changes within diets over the last forty years. Fast food shops on every corner, with fat contents higher than a home cooked meal, sugar in abundance. Busy life styles have led to convenience shopping and ready meals sales are increasing year on year. So do we have to choose unhealthy? Does it impact on our chances of becoming a cancer patient, or is it heart disease in fact that is the risk? Heart disease is top of the table for fatalities, despite the killer of smoking decreasing year on year, and meat eating becoming less common.

We all know that how we feed our animals have changed, and there is potential for this to be reflected in the incidence of cancer and serious illness dictated by food we consume.  However the fact that rates have only changed from a mean perspective because we live longer, so rates in older people are higher potentially could indicate that actually nothing much has changed except the increase in population size.

A healthy body and a healthy mind is great for feeling good. It’s important we don’t neglect either, but if diet controlled cancer incidence then there would be proof, and stressing about what should or should not have been eaten in the past prior to diagnosis is bad for our health, and proven to be damaging.

I have followed the diet and nutrition research for serious illness for sometime. The conclusion being non red meat eating vegetarians have the least serious illness diagnosis out of all food groups. Food for thought.