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 Building Blocks of Nutrition: Fats, Lipids and Oils 

Cancer Prevention
The specific cancer preventive diet put out in 1984 by the American Cancer Society’s Medical and Scientific Committee includes the following suggestions:

  • Avoid Obesity. Obese people have higher incidences of many cancers, particularly of the breast, colon, stomach, gallbladder, and uterus.

  • Reduce total fat intake. As we have just discussed, dietary fat is mainly associated with increased risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancer. It also adds to obesity, another risk.

  • Eat more high-fiber foods, particularly fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains. This is not conclusive, but it does seem that these nutrient rich, low-calorie and low-fat foods reduce the likelihood of cancer through a variety of means.

  • Include in the diet those foods that are rich in vitamin A and vitamin C. Beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A, is found in many fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, spinach, tomatoes, apricots, peaches, and melons. This nutrient is thought to help reduce carcinogenesis. Vitamin C, found in high amounts in citrus fruits and many vegetables, may also prevent cancer. It interferes with production of nitrosamine, a carcinogen formed from dietary nitrites in preserved foods.

  • Include the cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower, in the diet. Their actions are not known exactly, but these foods are thought to help prevent cancer.

  • Minimize the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Alcohol increases the risks for certain cancers, which are even more liable to occur in those who smoke.

  • Avoid the consumption of salt-cured, smoked, and nitrate-treated foods. Nitrates and nitrites can form nitrosamine, a carcinogen, in the digestive tract. Also, the smoking of foods can cause fats to be converted to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are also carcinogenic.

Cardiovascular Disease Prevention

The suggestions for reducing cardiovascular diseases include the following:
  • Reduce the amount of total fats in the diet from more than 40 percent (the current average) of total calories to approximately 30 percent or below.

  • Specifically reduce the saturated-fat intake by reducing consumption of red meats and whole milk products, such as cheeses and butter.

  • Reduce intake of hydrogenated fat (also saturated) found in cooking oils and margarine.

  • Raise the ratio of poly-unsaturated fats to saturated fats in the diet by maintaining or slightly increasing the dietary intake of polyunsaturated fats found in vegetable oils such as safflower, corn, and soybean oils and in most seeds and nuts. These also contain high amounts of the essential fatty acids, which are important to healthy body function.

  • Eat more cold-water fish (at least twice weekly), rather than red meats, for the omega-3 fatty acid content.

  • Keep the blood pressure under control, do not smoke, and exercise regularly.
(Excerpted from Staying Healthy with Nutrition ISBN: 1587611791)
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 About The Author
Elson Haas MDElson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
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