Saturday, March 16, 2013

Nutrition Basics – FOOD

Several years ago I read a definition of CR*P (as it related to food), liked it a lot, and then could never find it again. The definition above seems to fit rather well with my various posts about junk (as it relates to food). I don't know if this definition is identical to the the one I first found, but it is pretty close and good enough. 

Regarding this definition of FOOD, it's pretty close and good enough to what I eat. Perhaps for the second O, I would have said 'Only healthy fats', which does include omega-3 fatty acids. 

A recently published mouse study has shown that a life-time intake of omega-3 fatty acids reduced both incidence of breast cancer tumors and also tumor size. Now a mouse study is not a human study, but this study was designed to define a clear role for omega-3 fatty acids in the reduced risk of breast cancer development and tumor size in this cancer model. 

I am currently reviewing research projects already funded in 2013 by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) to consider which of those I wish to contribute supplemental funding from my endowment at AICR (funded by proceeds from my book A Dietitian's Cancer Story). 

They are all worthy projects, but the one that has caught my attention (and I am gathering additional information before I make my final decision) is a small randomized-controlled pilot study to determine if and how omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may impact indicators of both breast cancer cell growth and cell death in women with newly diagnosed breast cancer (stages I-IIIA). Many factors will be evaluated, including dietary intake of multiple types of fatty acids, in order to determine if dietary intakes of a single nutrient can potentially improve prognosis. 

A professional colleague recently asked me how closely I still follow the dietary changes I made in my own diet after my second breast cancer diagnosis in 1995, which I discuss in my book A Dietitian's Cancer Story. I did honestly tell her that I am still very close to those guidelines. The only thing I have now changed since I first wrote the book is to add back some/a little/not much animal protein sources where I know these animals have been raised on organic foods with healthy healthy fats. I still eat a 'plant-based diet' but I am now a 'careful omnivore' who enjoys foods with healthy fats instead of a 'near-vegan' and/or someone avoiding nearly all fats. 

As I write this post, I realize it was 18 years ago sometime last month I had my 10-year anniversary mammogram after my first breast cancer in 1984, in which the results showed something that the radiologist was clearly very worried about. It was 18 years ago this month that I had the biopsy that showed she was correct to be very worried, and it will be 18 years ago next month that I had my second mastectomy with the additional testing that showed the extensive lymph node involvement (even though the tumor was considerably smaller than my first breast cancer) putting me at very high risk for rapid recurrence. 

After finishing the chemotherapy for my second breast cancer, I took it upon myself to see if I could tip the scale a bit to improve my odds for long-term recovery, as there was no "Survivorship Clinic" to help me thrive after cancer as some cancer centers have today. I changed many things in my diet and my life with the twin goals of living longer and living better. I have not had 18 trouble-free years, but I am still here, and I do believe I have achieved those twin goals. :)

I keep my book in print because it is still relevant. In fact, I still get letters and telephone calls from people telling me that my book has been their 'life-line' as they became active patients, participating in their own personal version of 'active hope', giving this cancer journey their all to both live longer and live better after hearing those truly mind- and soul-numbing words 'you have cancer'. I also still get comments from professional colleagues telling me that they have found no other book to fill its shoes, so for now anyway, I will keep it in print. 

As mentioned above, proceeds are still donated to an endowment I established at AICR in 1999 to help fund research focused on nutritional strategies after a cancer diagnosis in order to optimize the odds for longer survival but also increased quality of life for cancer survivors. In fact, I look forward to reviewing and choosing a project to fund every year. It's really a hopeful way to start the year! 

Translating research results into recommendations for real people is painfully slow, but step, step, step, progress is being made. In the meantime, the many recommendations in my book are a good start as is choosing FOOD, not CR*P. :)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

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