Stroke and Cancer
Most stokes develop from blockages in the arteries feeding the brain or from pieces of these blockages breaking off (emboli). The process is very similar to that in coronary artery disease and the action required to prevent it is similar. In addition:
• Calcium and potassium – One research revealed that women who had a high intake of calcium from diet or supplements had 31% fewer strokes than those with low intakes. High potassium intake reduced strokes by 28%.
• Fish oil consumption – Research showed that women who ate fish regularly had significantly fewer strokes. Nurses eating 1-3 fish meals per month had a 7% reduction in strokes compared to those who did not eat fish. One fish meal per week gave a 22% reduction, 2-4 fish meals per week 27% and those who ate five or more fish meals per week had a 52% reduction in strokes when compared with those who did not eat fish.
• Whole grain consumption – Women who regularly had high levels of whole grain in their food had fewer strokes.
This is probably the most feared of diseases, and yet most people have little idea how they can reduce their chances of developing it. Considering that one in three people will develop cancer, protective measures are very important.
There are many causes of cancer, and the body has a number of protective defence systems, particularly the immune system which can actively seek out the cancer cells and destroy them. These systems all require good nutrition to function properly. We do not know how these nutrients help reduce cancer, but a number of simple dietary steps have been shown to greatly reduce the risk of developing this feared disease. These include: multivitamins, antioxidant vitamins, selenium and other minerals, fruit, vegetables and fish oil.
1. Multivitamins and folic acid
Folic acid and other B vitamins appear to be very important in cancer protection. As with many nutritional therapies, treatment needs to continue for a number of years to have a demonstrated effect. When they are taken for some time, the effect can sometimes be huge.
• One research showed that women who took multivitamin tablets containing folic acid for 15 years or more reduced their risk of developing colon cancer by 5%. It took many years for this effect to be apparent – after 5 years there was no benefit and after 10 years the reduction was 50%. But after 15 years of multivitamin intake there were only 15 cases of colon cancer per 10,000 women, compared with 68 in those who did not take multivitamin supplements – a 75% reduction.
Breast cancer: alcohol appears to increase the risk of developing breast cancer. In one research, folic acid did not lower the incidence of breast cancer, except in alcohol drinkers. In those women who had more than 1-2 drinks of alcohol per day, taking a multivitamin supplement containing folic acid reduced their breast cancer risk by 36%.
2. Vitamin E
It is believed that free radicals and oxidation may play a part in causing many cancers and vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, mopping up free radicals. In a study of 11,000 older people (67 – 105 years) those taking vitamin E supplements had 59% fewer cancer deaths.
Selenium is a trace element and appears to take part in many body functions, especially working with antioxidants. In some areas of the world the levels of selenium in the soil are low. (New Zealand is one of those places).
Selenium appears to have a powerful protective action against some cancers:
• In a study performed in Arizona, where there are relatively low levels of selenium in the soil, 1,312 people took either 200ug of selenium or dummy tablets and were followed for 6 years. Those taking selenium had 36% less cancer reported and 50% fewer cancer deaths (63% fewer prostate cancer, 58% fewer colon and rectal cancer and 46% fewer lung cancers).
• In a small study of patients with prostate cancer, the risk of prostate cancer was 4-5 fold higher in those who had low levels of selenium in their blood.
• In the Health Professional’s Study of 44,000 men, toenail clippings were used to detect their selenium status. There was 51% less prostate cancer in men with the highest selenium level, compared with the lowest level.
4. Fruit and vegetables
The fiber and antioxidant content of fruit and vegetables has been thought to reduce the risk of cancer but in a study, surprisingly, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables did not reduce the incidence of either colon or rectal cancer.
5. Cruciferous vegetables
This is an especially powerful group of vegetables for reducing the risk of cancer. They help in the production of DIM (di-indol methane) and Indol-3-Carbinol which can neutralize carcinogenic (cancer producing) toxins. Sadly, these are vegetables many people don’t like to eat, such as watercress, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale. Overcooking or prolonged storage can reduce some of the neutralizing action, but it is interesting that if eaten with meals, these vegetables can neutralize cancer-producing toxins found in the rest of our diet.
6. Fish oils
A long term study in Sweden involving 11,000 men showed a 2-3 fold increase in prostate cancer in those men who ate little or no fish, when compared with those eating moderate or high amounts.
A substance found in cooked tomatoes that has been shown to reduce the development of prostate cancer. It appears to be more concentrated in tomato sauce; however, a good supplement containing lycopene would probably be a more palatable and healthier option.
• Harvard University followed 47,000 health professionals for over 12 years. Those eating 4-7 servings of tomato sauce per week had 20% less prostate cancer, and those eating more than 10 servings per week had 45% less.
• In a large epidemiological study, Vogt tested blood lycopene levels in over 500 people. Those with high blood lycopene levels had 35% less prostate cancer than those with low levels.
A sleep hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain that appears to have a protective effect against the development and progression of cancer. Shift workers who sleep in the light and produce very little melatonin have a higher risk of developing cancer. In the study, those who worked night shifts for more than 30 years had a 36% higher risk of developing breast cancer.
In a review of ten randomized trials involving 643 patients, cancer patients given melatonin in high doses (10-40mg at night) reduced their risk of death at one year by 34%.