by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Cancer

Sep 30 2011

Disappointing UN Declaration on chronic disease prevention

As I mentioned in a previous post, the United Nations General Assembly met this month to consider resolutions about doing something to address rising rates of “non-communicable” diseases (i.e., chronic as opposed to infectious diseases such as obesity-related coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancers).

The Declaration adopted by the Assembly disappointed a consortium of 140 non-profit public health advocacy groups who issued a statement noting the conflicts of interest that occur when international agencies “partner” with companies that make products that contribute to an increase in disease risks.”

The consortium suggested actions that they hoped the U.N. would recommend, such as:

  • Realign food policies for food and agricultural subsidies with sound nutrition science
  • Mandate easy-to-understand front-of-pack nutrition labeling
  • Ban the promotion of breast-milk substitutes and high-fat, -sugar and -salt foods to children and young people
  • Prohibit advertising and brand sponsorship for alcohol beverages
  • Increase taxes on alcohol beverages
  • Expand nutritious school meal programs

The group also said that the U.N. should still work on:

  • Developing tools to navigate the trade law barriers to health policy innovation,
  •  Establishing disease-reduction targets and policy implementation schedules
  • Instituting mechanisms to keep commercially self-interested parties at arms-length and public-interest groups constructively involved

Food companies and trade associations are actively involved in lobbying the U.N. not to do any of these things.  This consortium has much work to do.


 

 

Jun 15 2009

Cancer statistics, 2009

I’ve just received the latest cancer statistics from CA–A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. The good news is that overall cancer death rates are down from their peak in the 1990s and rates of specific cancers are stable or decreasing.  None seems to be increasing.

Look at what is happening with heart disease (page 15).   Its rates have fallen by half since the mid-1970s for people under age 85.  Even for people over 85, heart disease death rates are falling rapidly.

Obesity is a risk factor for both cancer and heart disease.  So ideas about its effects on health need to take these statistics into consideration.  But before dismissing obesity as a risk factor, note that both heart disease and cancer remain leading causes of death, and both disproportionately affect low-income groups.   Groups with low income and education tend to have many risk factors for these diseases, among them high rates of obesity.

Public health still has plenty of work to do.

Oct 31 2007

Food, nutrition, and cancer prevention: the latest word

The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research has just come out with an update on their 1997 report on diet and cancer risk and prevention. After five years of research, the groups have produced ten recommendations. These, no surprise, look not all that different from most other sets of dietary recommendations issued for the last 50 years or so for prevention of chronic disease risk.  The recommendations emphasize staying lean and being active (“eat less, move more”). The report will be loaded with data, charts, and references and I’m looking forward to getting my copy. Enjoy!

  • Be as lean as possible within the normal range of body weight.
  • Be physically active as part of everyday life.
  • Limit consumption of energy-dense foods. Avoid sugary drinks.
  • Eat mostly foods of plant origin.
  • Limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meat.
  • Limit alcoholic drinks.
  • Limit consumption of salt. Avoid mouldy cereals (grains) or pulses (legumes).
  • Aim to meet nutritional needs through diet alone.
  • Mothers to breastfeed; children to be breastfed.
  • Cancer survivors: Follow the recommendations for cancer prevention.
Aug 17 2007

Nutrition Policies to Prevent Cancer?

A most unusual presidential panel on cancer prevention, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, has just weighed in with a report asking for better policies to make it easier for people to eat more healthfully. The Washington Post views the report as taking on the food industry (also tobacco). It quotes the chair of the panel as saying that the country has a moral obligation to protect the health of Americans. Indeed it has, but it is surprising that a panel reporting to this president puts so much of the responsibility for healthful eating on the food industry. The report itself is worth reading for its strikingly candid comments–“Ineffective policies, in conjunction with limited regulation of sales and marketing in the food and beverage industry, have spawned a culture that struggles to make healthy choices – a culture in dire need of change”–and its emphasis on the need to eat less and move more (my philosophy, precisely). The committee had only three members: it’s chair, Dr. LaSalle Leffall of Howard University, Margaret Kripke (M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, University of Texas), and none other than Lance Armstrong.

Jul 19 2007

Do Fruits and Vegetables Prevent Cancer Recurrence?

Oh that nutrition and health were that simple. The The WHEL trial results appeared yesterday in JAMA. The sadly disappointing results of that trial showed no difference in rates of breast cancer recurrence among women who typically ate 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day as compared to those who ate nearly twice that amount. I served on the data management committee for this trial and was involved with it for more than 10 years–a fascinating experience and a long saga.  I thought the trial was exceptionally well done. The investigators monitored fruit and vegetable intake by measuring the amounts of carotenes and other nutrients in the blood of the participants. Although there was some convergence of dietary patterns over the 8 years of study, the patterns were distinct enough to show benefits from eating more fruits and vegetables if that had been the case. An accompanying editorial explains why sorting out diet and cancer risk is so complicated. In the meantime, what to do? We know that people who habitually eat fruits and vegetables are healthier than those who don’t. The old “five-a-day” is a reasonable goal and it’s too bad that the promoters of that message messed it up by turning it into “fruits & vegetables: more matters.” As with most things in nutrition, enough is enough and more is not necessarily better.