Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 13-December-2002, Vol 115 No 1167
Licking prostate and other cancers and coronary heart disease with an Asian style diet
The item in the NZMA’s first issue of Medspeak entitled “Nutrition and health” missed the plot. The common factor in the ill health of English-speaking nations is not the English language, but multinational fast-food outlets, derived from the USA.
The Japanese and Okinawans have the highest life expectancy in the world (based on accurate birth records). Many keep well into very old age, their healthy diet being abetted by exercise and coping skills. Dietary modification could reverse the appalling death rates from cancer and heart disease in New Zealand. I would stress that there is no proof but much evidence existing to support a diet switch, which I have personally found quite simple. It could ideally be adopted from teenage years or even earlier and it is not too late to start even in your 70s, with benefits to either spouse. Basically, animal fats (meat and dairy), sugars and refined cereals are to be avoided and replaced by soya milk, wholegrain cereals, extra fish and ample fresh vegetables. Unsaturated vegetable fats such as canola and olive oil are advised for spreads or cooking. These contain omega 3 oils, which are cancer inhibiting and also lower blood cholesterol. Many plant foods contain natural oestrogens (phyto-oestrogens or flavonoids) which not only have important anti-cancer properties but also counter heart disease, BPH, osteoporosis and menopausal flushing. Their use could obviate the need for hormone replacement therapy, with its associated risks of blood clotting and breast cancer. Rich sources are soy and other beans, legumes, green vegetables, whole grains (especially flax seed (linseed)) and black or green teas.
Prostate cancer deaths in rural China, Okinawa and Japan are a fraction of those in the Western world. Incidence of breast, uterine, ovarian and colorectal cancers is also much lower, as are deaths from heart attacks and stroke. When Asians migrate to Hawaii or California and adopt Western diet and lifestyle, Western death patterns emerge within a generation or two. This does not occur in those Asians who maintain their traditional diet. In the United States, Seventh Day Adventists (who are vegetarian) have lower deaths from cancer and heart disease; further Adventists who use soya milk halve their death rate from prostate cancer. Phyto-oestrogen levels in both blood and urine are much higher in Japan than in the West. These high levels show a strong negative correlation with prostate or breast cancers and also fatal heart attacks. Further, there is a positive correlation between daily animal fat consumption and these disorders, supporting the need for their avoidance. Experimentally, prostate and breast cancer growth is fostered in cancer transplants to rodents that are fed on animal fats, but not to those given vegetable oils. The Okinawan elders, unlike the Japanese, have little stomach cancer, probably because they do not use preservatives, such as salt and nitrates.
Red clover is a rich source of phyto-oestrogens. Recent studies have shown that red clover capsules given for three months can accelerate cancer cell deaths in patients who later undergo radical prostatectomy for cancer. Thus regular red clover capsules might help keep more widespread prostate cancer at bay, but there is no evidence for this. A study from the Mayo Clinic has shown that men who take long-term nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or aspirin, develop prostate cancer at only half the rate of men not so treated. This could be an indication for regular use of aspirin, which can also reduce heart attacks in those at risk. Vitamins A, C and E are anti-oxidants, as are zinc and selenium. The jury is out as to whether to take regular supplements of these. Better perhaps one should depend on a good dietary intake.
The above is based on a presentation given to the Annual General Meeting in Christchurch of the NZ Prostate Awareness and Support Society (PASS) on 28 July 2002, and also to the Wellington Cancer Society Prostate Support Group on 24 April 2002.
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