“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”; Research explores Hippocrates’s adage

February 12, 2015

Are you eating at least five fruits and vegetables every day?

A new study published in the British Journal of Cancer suggests that some compounds found largely in fruits and vegetables called “flavonoids may reduce incidence and improve survival” for some cancers.

It is well-known that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is beneficial to one’s health and well-being.  What is particularly exciting about this research is that it specifically focused on the two common types of esophageal cancer and gastric cancer.

The study is titled “Dietary intake of flavonoids and oesophageal and gastric cancer: incidence and survival in the United States of America (USA).”

Researchers interviewed patients that were diagnosed with esophageal cancer, both adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma and gastric cancer (adenocarcinoma).

Esophageal adenocarcinoma is the most common type of esophageal cancer in the western world and is the fastest growing cancer in the United States.*  

Also one of the deadliest cancers, esophageal cancer shows extremely poor survival rates, as the cancer is extremely aggressive and is typically caught in later, advanced stages. Currently, there are no routine or standard screenings to detect esophageal cancer in earlier stages.  The overall five-year survival rate is less than 18%.

According to the published abstract found on British Journal’s website, the researchers linked patients’ responses from food frequency questionnaires with USDA Flavonoid Databases and available literature for six flavonoid classes and lignans (chemical compound found in plants).

The abstract details that “flavonoids have experimentally demonstrated chemopreventive effects against esophageal and gastric cancers,” but there have been few studies which examine “flavonoid intake and incidence of these cancers and none have considered survival.”

Foods that may fight cancerWhile fruits and vegetables are the main sources of flavonoids, tea and red wine also contain the compound.

Certain fruits and vegetables can cause symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).  Therefore, acid reflux sufferers should be careful about consuming certain spicy, citrus and/or acidic food and drinks and should limit or completely avoid drinking wine.  It is important to speak to your doctor before making any changes to your health.

“Our findings, if confirmed, suggest that increased dietary anthocyanidin intake may reduce incidence and improve survival for these cancers,”  researchers stated.  To read the full abstract, please click here.




British Journal of Cancer, 10 February 2015; doi:10.1038/bjc.2015.25 bjcancer.com

“Esophageal Cancer On The Rise,” WebMD

Overweight children may be at higher risk of esophageal cancer as adults

February 10, 2015

Overweight children may be at higher risk of esophageal cancer when they grow up than their slimmer friends, according to research published this week in the British Journal of Cancer

Researchers* studied the health records of more than 255,000 Danish school children, born between 1930 and 1971, whose height and weight was measured every year between the ages of 7 and 13**. The researchers used this to go back and calculate their Body Mass Index (BMI).

BMI looks at weight compared to height and is a simple way of assessing whether people are a healthy weight.

More than 250 of the children went on to develop esophageal cancer over the age of 40. By matching these middle-aged patients with their school records, researchers found that children aged 9-13 with a higher BMI, who were more likely to be overweight or obese, appeared to be at greater risk of developing this type of cancer in later life.

Using their results from the 1930s to the 1970s, they calculated that 2.1 per cent of all oesophageal cases in adult men in Denmark could be attributed to boys being overweight or obese at the age of 13.

But they estimate that this figure could go up to around 17.5 per cent of all these male esophageal cancer cases in the future due to the rise in childhood obesity levels.

Dr Jennifer Baker, associate professor at The Institute of Preventive Medicine in Denmark and the University of Copenhagen, said: “Our results suggest that the increase in the number of overweight and obese children might lead to a significant rise in future cases of esophageal cancer.

“It may be that being overweight as a child is directly linked to a higher risk of developing this cancer in later life. Or it might be that overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults, and we know that being above a healthy weight as an adult is a risk factor for many cancers, including oesophageal.

More research is needed, but however the link works, our results underline how important it is for children to be a healthy weight – particularly as there is some evidence that overweight children could be at higher risk of other cancers later in life.”

Esophageal cancer – sometimes called cancer of the food pipe or gullet – is the 13th most common cancer in adults, with around 8,300 cases diagnosed each year in the UK.

In the United States, esophageal cancer is the fastest growing cancer with over a 600% increase in the past decades.

A previous Cancer Research UK study estimated that being overweight or obese causes more than one in four esophageal cancers in men and around one in 10 in women. This may be because people who are obese are more likely to suffer from acid reflux – when acid coming back up from the stomach can irritate the lining of the esophagus – which is a risk factor for esophageal cancer. A higher BMI is also associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease in children.

The Danish research did not take into account any social or lifestyle factors that might contribute to a person’s risk of developing cancer, but researchers say there was little evidence that these might have affected their results.

Dr Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: “This research suggests that being overweight as a child could have effects on your health even decades later. It highlights how important it is to ensure that children eat healthily and are active, as this gives them the best possible start in life and could help to prevent them from developing diseases such as cancer in the future.”

Image via cancerresearchuk.org


This post is based on information provided by British Journal of Cancer.

Other sources: “Esophageal Cancer On The Rise,” WebMD

Obesity rate in children drops almost in half, report shows.

March 7, 2014

The Journal of American Medical Association recently reported that there has been a substantial decline in the obesity rate among children in the United States.  Obesity in children ages 2-5 dropped almost in half, 43% to be exact, in the past decade.

While there are no direct causes, researchers believe that the major decrease can be attributed to a number of different reasons.  From better choices at fast food restaurants to parents taking a more active role in what their children are consuming, the obesity rate in this group of children from 2-5 is at 8.4%.  That is quite a difference from the previous obesity rate of 13.9% in 2003-2004.


Photo via sxc.hu

This is especially beneficial in regards to a lowered risk of esophageal cancer.  A study conducted in 2013 linked overweight and obese adolescents to “a more than two-fold increased risk of developing esophageal cancer later in life,”  Study author Dr. Zohar Levi of the Rabin Medical Center in Israel suggested that this risk could possibly be attributed to reoccurring “reflux that they have throughout their life.”

The New York Times reported the following:

“This is the first time we’ve seen any indication of any significant decrease in any group,” said Cynthia L. Ogden, a researcher for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the lead author of the report, which will be published in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, on Wednesday. “It was exciting.”

However, a third of US children and teens are still considered obese or overweight.  Odgen told the New York Times “Still, the lower obesity rates in the very young bode well for the future.”

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