Are the things you eat linked to cancer?
Nobody wants to think about the negative effects of those oh-so-deliciously-salty fast-food fries or that extra pastry or two when someone brings doughnuts to the office.
But besides the usual suspects (obesity, heart disease, diabetes) we worry about when it comes to our diets, should cancer be something we should add to our list of food worries?
The frustrating answer is maybe … or maybe not. Despite advances in medical research, scientists and researchers still have had difficulty pinpointing the exact causes of various types of cancer.
Some evidence points to environmental factors, while other research suggests that what we put into our bodies may be to blame. The challenge is to strike a balance between enjoying food and making smart choices when it comes to what we eat.
So, while research is still being done, here are five things you may be eating that have been linked to cancer ...
No. 5: Refined sugar
In order to survive, any biological process or system needs a food source in order to generate energy and continue to grow.
Overall, the human body continues to live if people engage in proper nourishment, exercise and ongoing hydration. Unfortunately, the same is true for cancer cells.
A recent UCLA study published in the journal Cancer Research found that tumor cells use fructose to proliferate and other studies have linked fructose intake with pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest cancer types.
This is bad news for all those people who enjoy ice cream, candy and soft drinks. If people want to ward off some forms of cancer and work to starve tumors, they should avoid sugar, sweeteners and products that contain high-fructose corn syrup.
Giving up sweets may be tough, but it could also be a key to avoiding cancer in the future.
Next, find out what your answer should be to the question "Would you like fries with that?"
No. 4: French fries
Most people understand that french fries can lead to coronary heart disease and other problems due to saturated and trans fats.
Another issue with fries may center on something called acrylamide, a chemical researchers have shown causes cancer in rats. The chemical is not found in the fries themselves, but rather occurs as a byproduct of frying potatoes -- be them fries or chips -- in oils at high temperatures, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
A Swedish government report first connected fried foods and acrylamide in 2002. But despite the chemical's known effect on rats, scientists still aren't sure whether acrylamide is carcinogenic to humans.
But if some people had their way, they would label them "cancer fries" instead of french fries. The name-change would most likely cut into sales, but nutritionists would probably be more than happy to see a drop in sales of this unhealthy product.
Now, what are french fries and other foods made with? That's right ... oil ...
No. 3: Trans fats
The public has become more and more aware of the dangers of certain oils, and companies have been scrambling to assure their customers that they are using "healthier" oils.
Manufacturers use hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils because they extend the shelf life of products. Unfortunately, this can also create trans fats, which can be a factor in cancer but also impact heart disease and a variety of other health problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.
While the American Cancer Society's official position is that a relationship between trans fats and cancer "has not been determined," some studies have linked trans fats to prostate and breast cancer.
Another challenge with trans fats is that people consume them rather than consuming other, healthier foods. This can open the door to a variety of cancer-inducing problems.
Consumers should also be aware that some companies get away with declaring their products to be "trans fat free" by simply lowering the serving size on the label. Unfortunately, many people think they are safe, but they do not necessarily follow the serving size.
Moderation is also key with out next food ...
No. 2: Sodium nitrite
As mentioned, the challenge with cancer is figuring out if certain substances actually do lead to cancer or if there is something else going on. Some researchers suggest something called sodium nitrite may play a role.
Sodium nitrite provides color and appearance to certain foods, such as processed meat, bacon and hot dogs. When combined with amines in protein-rich food, sodium nitrite can turn into the carcinogen nitrosamine, according to Science Daily.
That connection led to the Cancer Prevention Coalition recommending that children not eat more than 12 hot dogs per month because of the risk.
However, most experts have downplayed the risk, saying that humans can absorb a certain amount of sodium nitrite without it leading directly to cancer. And strict regulation of cured meats, as well as the required addition of antioxidants, helps minimize the risk.
But while you're probably OK in moderation, cutting down on bacon and hot dogs is probably a good strategy for a variety of other health reasons anyway.
Now, with that out of the way, who's up for some baking?
No. 1: White flour
White flour doesn't seem like such a nasty substance, but researchers are continuing to warn consumers about the side effects of eating too many products made with white, refined flour.
The problem with flour is similar to the problem with sugar. Flour is in the category of foods that are called "high glycemic," which means that they absorb quickly into the bloodstream, according to the Mayo Clinic. This provides a quick energy source for cancer cells.
Since some people eat such a high quantity of white-flour foods, cancer may have an almost endless supply of fuel, according to a study by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Therefore, if people want to help prevent cancer, they cut back on the pancakes, breads, crackers, cookies and especially doughnuts.
Of the many dangerous foods on the market, the doughnut has been targeted as perhaps the most devastating. The doughnut may have sugar, acrylamide, white flour and hydrogenated oils.
To help avoid cancer, put down the doughnut.
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