A study of almost half a million people discovered that eating certain types of foods is related to cancer, but there is a simple solution

    Abdulaziz Sobh

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    The old advice about letting food be your medicine sounds truer than ever before a new investigation.

    A study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine suggests that what you eat can increase or decrease the risk of deadly cancers.

    The 56 authors of the study surveyed the diets of 471,495 people in 10 European countries for an average period of 15 years.

    They found that people on less nutrient-rich diets that included more processed meats, salt, sugary cakes, and saturated fats were more likely to develop cancer than people who ate more nutrient-rich foods and dietary fiber.

    "In this study, we observed an increased cancer risk for people who eat, on average, more foods with a high energy content, sugar, saturated fat or sodium," the study's lead author, Mélanie Deschasaux, told Business. An insider in an email, giving examples such as processed meats, cakes, and cola.

    It was found that people whose diets were lower in nutritional quality (the bottom 20% of the group studied) were 7% more likely to develop cancer compared to people with the most nutritious diets (20% higher).

    But Deschasaux said that number was less significant than the clear, consistent and convincing trend the researchers found: a diet abundant in plant proteins, such as beans and nuts, along with fruits and vegetables rich in fiber seems to be the best thing for a life without Cancer.

    The researchers found that this was especially true for certain cancers, such as colon, stomach, lips, tongue, mouth, sinuses, stomach, lung (for men) and liver and breast (for women).

    A growing body of evidence supports a type of diet for longevity
    The authors of the new study controlled for other factors, including a person's family history of cancer, how active they were, their body mass index, and whether they smoked. They found that, regardless of any of these variables, a person with a lower quality diet was more likely to develop cancer.

    Interestingly, some of the countries with lower quality diets include France, the United Kingdom, and Germany. It was found that people in Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Italy, and Spain, as well as in Norway and in some parts of the United Kingdom, were generally healthier.

    The results are the latest in a growing body of evidence suggesting that focusing on high-fiber and plant-based diets can lead to a long life, while consumption of processed foods can be harmful. Studies have consistently found that following a Mediterranean diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado, and a lot of fiber in beans and nuts is associated with a longer and healthier life.

    In February, another study of more than 100,000 French adults found that those who ate more processed and packaged foods such as potato chips, sugary cereals, frozen microwave dinners, and sweet drinks were more likely to develop any type of cancer.

    Although it is a nuisance that tasty processed foods can harm you, the good news is that eating more whole grains and fiber-rich vegetables can lower your risk of developing cancer. This is especially true when it comes to colon cancer, which is becoming one of the most common cancers among 20-year-old adults.

    Dietary fiber cannot be absorbed by the body and instead improves the way we digest food, "shortening the amount of time that waste travels through the colon," according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

    The committee added that "when bacteria in the small intestine break down the fiber, a substance called butyrate is produced that can inhibit the growth of tumors of the colon and rectum."

    The fiber of whole grains specifically is good for the intestine because the bran and germ of a grain can stimulate antioxidant activity and include key nutrients such as vitamin E, copper and zinc.

    A scoring system for food
    Sometimes it feels like eating healthy is much easier with a cheat sheet. The researchers behind this new study say that France has created a good one.

    The rating system, called "Nutri-Score", is a way to evaluate packaged foods based on their ingredients. The items earn points for having more fiber, protein, fruit, and vegetables, but lose points if they are loaded with sugar, salt, saturated fat or many calories.

    Essentially, the ranking follows the dietary rules that the new study found that could play a role in cancer risk.

    A food gets a letter and a color rating based on its point total. A food with a dark green A is healthier, while a dark orange E is the worst.

    The tool was launched last year in France on a voluntary basis, which means that food manufacturers can choose to include it in their products.

    But as of October, only six French food manufacturers, including yogurt giant Danone and French fries maker McCain, had said they would use the scores at the front of the package, according to the FoodNavigator.com website.

    The authors of the study say that their results suggest that the Nutri-Score scale is scientifically sound and useful.

    "A healthy diet is not just about cutting a particular food or adding another," Deschasaux said. "It's about balance."

    If people are provided with simpler nutrition information such as letter grades, it may be easier to make healthier eating choices and reduce our risk of cancer. But this new study indicates that the foods that would obtain the best scores are plants such as vegetables and vegetables that generally do not require plastic wrap or a box with the special score.

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