Cancer prevention on a platter
Now an insulin-producing organ
Improve your lifestyle to keep diabetes away
Ayurveda & you
Cancer prevention on a platter
My friend was inconsolable. Anybody who lost his 40-year-old brother to cancer would be. His anguish was all the more because his brother never smoked or drank; nor did the family have cancer history.
There was no way to tell him at that stage that while smoking is the major cause of cancer, the dreaded disease also owes its existence to what you eat. According to the National Academy of Sciences (US), 60 per cent of all cancers in women and 40 per cent of all cancers in men may be due to dietary and nutritional factors.
We are not talking about the carcinogenic chemicals that have polluted many of the food items but the very basic nature of some food items to prevent cancer and that of others to promote it.
The inference is not based on any old housewives’ tale but a comprehensive and authoritative study conducted by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF). The seminal report, Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, published in 1997 is a dietary Bible but, strangely, many in India are not even aware of it.
The report asserts in no uncertain terms that cancer is principally caused by environmental factors, of which the most important are tobacco; diet and factors related to diet, including body mass and physical activity; and exposures in the workplace and elsewhere. Those who have already developed cancer may not be able to get rid of it merely by changing their diet but others can surely prevent it.
Evidence of dietary protection against cancer is strongest and most consistent for diets high in vegetables and fruits. Evidence that physical activity protects against colon cancer is convincing. Evidence that alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the mouth and pharynx, larynx, oesophagus and liver, and that high body mass increases the risk of cancer of the endometrium, is convincing. So is the evidence that refrigeration of food protects against stomach cancer.
Fourteen dietary recommendations are made in the report. The first three concern food supplies and eating and the maintenance of body weight and physical activity. The next five concern foods and drinks: specifically, vegetables and fruits, other plant foods, alcoholic drinks, meat, and fats and oils. Five further recommendations concern aspects of food processing: salt and salting, food storage and preservation, additives and residues, and food preparation. The final dietary recommendation concerns supplementation.
The first and foremost advice is that we should choose predominantly plant-based diets rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits, pulses (legumes) and minimally processed starchy staple foods. The evidence that diets high in vegetables and fruits protect against cancers of many sites is strong and consistent. The evidence is less strong for diets high in minimally processed starchy staple foods, which form the basis of generally healthy diets, but it shows a possible protective effect.
If plant-based diets consist of a variety of vegetables, fruits, pulses and minimally processed starchy staple foods, they are low in energy. These diets may prevent a variety of cancers, either directly, because of their inclusion of constituents commonly found in foods of plant origin that are protective against cancer, or indirectly because of their exclusion of other constituents commonly found in foods of animal origin.
Minimising the consumption of red meat possibly protects against cancer at several sites. Plant-based diets also may protect against obesity, which probably increases the risk of some cancers.
The effort should be to promote year-round consumption of a variety of vegetables and fruits, providing 7 per cent or more total energy. So, eat 400-800 grams or five or more portions (servings) a day of a variety of vegetables and fruits, all year round.
There is convincing evidence that diets high in vegetables and /or fruits protect against cancers of the mouth and pharynx, oesophagus, lung (in particular, the evidence is strongest for green vegetables), stomach (in particular, the evidence is strongest for raw vegetables, green vegetables, allium vegetables — the onion family —, carrots, tomatoes and citrus fruit), and colon and rectum. Such diets probably also protect against cancers of the larynx, pancreas, breast and bladder, and possibly against cancers of the liver, ovary, endometrium, cervix, prostate, thyroid, and kidney.
Many vegetables and fruits are good sources of fibre and many vitamins, minerals and other bioactive compounds. Diets high in dietary fibre possibly against cancers of the pancreas, colon and rectum and breast. Diets high in the naturally occurring carotenoids probably protect against cancer of the lung, and possibly protect against cancers of the oesophagus, colon and rectum, stomach, breast and cervix. Diets high in naturally occurring vitamin C probably protect against cancer of the stomach, and possibly against cancers of the mouth and pharynx, oesophagus, lung, pancreas, and cervix.
Vegetables and fruits that are particularly valuable include green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits, but these should not be eaten to the exclusion of other vegetables and fruits.
This does not, however, mean that the evidence shows that vegetarian diets (however defined) are more protective against cancer than other diets that are consistent with the recommendations of this report, that may include many protective foods and also modest amounts of meat. The recommendations also accommodate other foods of animal origin that may make an important nutritional contribution to the diets of vegetarians other than vegans.
The second recommendation is to avoid being underweight or overweight and limit weight gain during adulthood to less than 5 kg. In the view of the panel, energy-dense diets increase the risk of high body mass or obesity (defined as body mass index, BMI, above 30), and risk is further increased in sedentary people. The evidence that obesity increases the risk of cancer of the endometrium is convincing. Obesity also probably increases the risk of cancer of the breast in postmenopausal women and cancer of the kidney. It possibly increases the risk of cancer of the colon.
If occupational activity is low or moderate, take an hour’s brisk walk or similar exercise daily, and also exercise vigorously for a total of at least one hour in a week. There is convincing evidence that regular physical activity, best expressed in terms of a relatively high physical activity level protects against colon cancer. Regular physical activity possibly also protects against cancers of the breast and lung. In addition, it protects against overweight and obesity and therefore against cancers for which the risk increases with obesity.
A variety of starchy or protein-rich foods of plant origin, preferably minimally processed, should provide 45-60 per cent total energy. Refined sugar should provide less than 10 per cent total energy. So, eat 600-800 grams or more than seven portions a day of a variety of cereals (grains), pulses (legumes), roots, tubers and plantains. Prefer minimally processed foods. Limit consumption of refined sugar. Non-starchy roots are counted as vegetables.
In societies like India where diets are based on cereals, such as rice or millet, the weight of starchy and protein-rich foods of plant origin may be higher, say up to 1,000 g/day as served.
If eaten at all, limit the intake of red meat to less than 80 grams daily. It is preferable to choose fish, poultry or meat from non-domesticated animals in place of red meat. Diets containing substantial amounts of red meat and products made from these meats, probably increase the risk of cancers of the colon and rectum, and possibly increase the risk of cancers of the pancreas, breast, prostate and kidney. Diets high in animal fat, of which red meat is an important source, possibly increase the risk of cancers of the lung, colon and rectum, breast, endometrium and prostate.
Diets containing substantial amounts of grilled (broiled) or well-cooked meat and fish possibly increase the risk of cancer of the stomach; diets containing substantial amounts of grilled (broiled), barbecued or fried meat increase the risk of cancer of the colon and rectum.
Now an insulin-producing organ
Sydney: Using a revolutionary new tissue-engineered implant method, scientists at Melbourne University and at the Bernard O'Brien Institute of Microsurgery at St. Vincent's Hospital are growing a "mini-pancreas" inside a diabetic rat.
According to The Herald Sun, the mini-organ is growing with its own blood supply and the cells are producing insulin and thriving.
A million Australians and 190 million people worldwide are affected by diabetes, which occurs when sugar and starch are not absorbed by the body because of a lack of functioning insulin in the pancreas.
This breakthrough has been achieved by providing the building blocks to actually grow a healthy organ with its own blood supply inside the body.
The team's invention is a chamber containing "scaffolding", the same principle used in building construction. Surgeons then implant a large blood vessel from the body into the chamber, which supports the survival and growth of cells. After the vessel has sprouted and cells have grown, the biodegradable "scaffolding" dissolves.
The group is hoping to launch trial fat tissue support chambers in humans by 2005 and believes the technology could also eventually enable them to grow healthy livers.
Improve your lifestyle to keep diabetes away
India has about 27 million diabetic patients and perhaps more are at the risk of developing diabetes. As a result, the burden of diabetes has become unmanageable by any single agency. Reducing the burden has been the leading theme during the World Diabetes Day discussions.
Diabetes and foot care. Nearly 15 per cent of all diabetic individuals are affected by diabetic foot ulcers. Almost 85 per cent amputations are preceded by diabetic foot ulcers. In India, the prevalence of foot ulcers in diabetics in clinic population is 3 per cent which is much lower than reported in the western world. A possible reason for the low prevalence among Indians is the shorter duration of diabetes.
Cardiovascular disease is the main cause of death in people with diabetes. statistics show that people with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those without diabetes. There is need to spread the message that a healthy lifestyle can help prevent the onset of type-2 diabetes and the development of complications in people who already have this problem.
So, "TAKE IT TO HEART" — know your condition and be actively involved in the management of your own health. Adopt all the following components of health living: Eat a balanced diet, enjoy regular exercise, ensure access to good medical advice, socialise and abstain from smoking.
Ayurveda & you
In order to keep the body healthy and fit, ayurvedic lore is packed with numerous herbal formulations. Many of these preparations are used in our day-to-day life and have found a permanent place in our kitchen. Here are a few decoctions which one can easily make in one’s kitchen and take according to one’s requirement.
Digestive "teas": Take one cup of water and bring it to boil. Put into it half a teaspoonful each of semi-crushed seeds of coriander, fennel and cumin, popularly known as dhania, saunf and safed jeera respectively. Strain it after five minutes. If taken after meal it acts as a good digestive aid to be used in conditions involving gas, belching and distension of the abdomen. Similarly, to kindle the digestive fire a small slice of fresh ginger can be boiled in a cup of water and, after adding a little honey and lemon, it makes a tasty carminative drink to be taken before meals.
Laxative barley brew: Take two teaspoonful of half crushed barley, one teaspoonful of liquorice and 20 gm of chopped figs (anjeer). Put all these ingredients in 200 ml of water for a few hours. Boil it till it is reduced to half and drink warm after straining it. This decoction gently clears the bowels and works well if taken in the evening. For severe cases, 10 to 20 gm of amaltas pulp can be taken in a similar manner.
"Tea" for cough and cold: Secure together in a dry container half crushed powder of 50 gm of banafsha, 20 gm of saunf, 10 gm each of clove, liquorice, cinnamon and cardamom. Boiling two teaspoonful of it in a cup of water or even milk makes it an excellent drink to be used in winter. Adding a few leaves of tulsi turns it to be a mild antipyretic also. This refreshing decoction is also useful in conditions involving sore throat, flu, chest congestion and bronchitis.
Decoction for IBS and diabetes: Patients suffering from the irritable bowel syndrome can use a decoction by boiling 10 gm of half crushed nutgrass (nagarmotha) in a glass of water. This simple herb is commonly available with any pansari and can also be brewed with ordinary tea. It binds the stool and is a safe remedy for chronic mucous diarrhoea. Diabetic persons along with their usual treatment can take the decoction made of one teaspoonful of fenugreek seeds (methi beej) once a day. Not to be used in hypertension, this strength-giving "tea" is good for nerves and digestion also.
Tranquilizing herbal brew: Take an equal quantity of brahmi, jatamansi and shankhpushpi. Crush them together and make small packs of it by putting two to five gm of the powder in a thin cotton cloth. Boiled independently or with ordinary tea, this brew is a simple but effective remedy to treat cases of insomnia, anxiety disorders and other stressful conditions.
Milk fortified with herbs: Ayurvedic texts advise the use of certain herbs by boiling them in milk. Called "ksheer paak" in Sanskrit, five gm of ashwagandha powder can be boiled in a cup of milk to be given to patients suffering from nervous and geriatric debility. In a similar way, bark of arjun tree and powder of asparagus roots (shatavar) can be given to heart patients and women undergoing menopause respectively. There has been a practice in winter months to use milk prepared with certain dry fruits like dates and almond. Though most dry fruits are nutritious and aphrodisiac in effect, their high calorie value makes their use restricted to the individual suitability only.