Friday, January 4, 2013


In 1995, the National Institutes of Health started following more than 500,000 AARP volunteers (ages 50 and up).  They wanted to determine how diet influences health, especially connections between diet and cancer.  The study, now completed, confirmed previous conclusions of other studies on diet and disease.  People who ate plenty of vegetables, beans, fruits, nuts, whole grains, olive oil and fish -- and less red meat, processed meat and butter -- had fewer cases of cancer and heart disease.  Following are some highlights of the study:

1.  Red meat is especially linked to colon cancer.  Red meat includes beef, pork and lamb.  Carcinogens are theoretically formed when the meat is pan-fried or cooked over an open flame, especially when it is charred. Recommended amounts to consume:  no more than 18 oz. a week.

2.  Foods containing nitrites are linked to cancer.  Hot dogs, luncheon meats and bacon are all available in nitrite-free forms now.  Since nitrite acts as as a preservative, it's important to store these foods properly at recommended temperatures.

3.  Fill 2/3 of your plate with "plant-based" foods (veggies, beans, whole grains, nuts) and 1/3 with animal-based foods such as chicken, seafood, lean beef or low-fat dairy.  Briefly precooking meat, either in the microwave or by parboiling before grilling, reduces cancer-causing compounds.  Don't worry about grilling veggies because carcinogens are not formed when veggies are exposed to high heat.

4.  Tomatoes in any form are rich in lycopene.  Lycopene, theorized to protect against prostate cancer, is also found in pink grapefruit, cabbage and beets.  When possible, add a small amount of fat to improve lycopene absorption.

5.  Whole grains help protect against cancer.  Fiber from whole grains is more protective than fiber from fruits and vegetables.

6.  Alcohol consumption of any amount increases the risk for breast cancer.  High alcohol consumption also increases the risk of several other cancers for both women and men, including colon and liver cancers.  Recommended amounts:  no more than 2 drinks/day for men, 1 drink/day for women.

AARP's new diet book by John Whyte, MD, AARP New American Diet, is designed to help Americans age 50 and older lose weight and keep it off with foods that also help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea that alcohol consumption increased breast cancer - my husband and I have been better about splitting cuts of meat so we eat less. Instead of us each having a steak, we'll split one, so we probably only have 3-4 ounces, instead of the usual 8 or 10 ounces!


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