Until a few years ago, the attempt to protect one's health with a lifestyle made one smile. If there were drugs for almost every ailment and surgical operations for everything else, what was the point of depriving oneself or at least limiting some foods that were tempting just to talk about, such as red and processed meats and sweet and sugary foods? It was a period in which it was still believed that cellular degenerations were the result of chance and that developing one or not was more attributable to personal bad or good luck. But, study after study, scientists and doctors have begun to attack this castle of beliefs by showing that the reality is very different. Diet and lifestyle can keep many disorders away, including a good portion of cellular degeneration. Not only that, living healthily also puts your body in the best conditions to face any threat. I can say that, for my part, everything changed after listening, on an afternoon many years ago, to an interview with Dr. David Servan Schreiber who stated bluntly that we have powerful allies in our hands to fight tumors, such as nutrition and lifestyle (David Servan Schreiber, Anti cancer). This was just the beginning. Nowadays no one can anymore state that lifestyle has no say in our health and we are not just talking about the fight against tumors, but also against inflammation, a decline in immune defenses, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and even depression. In recent years, science has made great strides and today we are talking about the incredible results achieved and the importance of starting to follow a healthy lifestyle now.
Nutrition and lifestyle, together, can reduce 40% of cancer cases
It was 2011 and research conducted by a team of English scientists from Queen Mary University of London managed to demonstrate, by studying and analyzing the data collected between 1993 and 2007, that 40% of cancers can be avoided as they depend on factors over which we have full control (Parkin et al, BR J Cancer, 2011). But what are these factors? The first and most important thing is not to smoke, but also to avoid exposing yourself to secondhand smoke. In fact, cigarette smoking alone is responsible for more than 20% of cancers in men and 15% in women. And what about a poorly varied diet, poor in fruit and vegetables. This is also responsible for 6% of tumors in men and 3.4% of tumors in women. Other factors are obesity and drinking alcohol, which cause between 4 and 6% of cancer cases, but also excessive exposure to the sun and the use of tanning beds, accounting for 3.6% of cancer cases. Attention must also be paid to exposure to some substances, such as asbestos, which can cause up to 5% of tumors, and infections, such as viral hepatitis. Finally, it is important to move and practice moderate physical activity. In fact, a sedentary lifestyle is also an important factor and contributes, together with diet, overweight and alcohol consumption, to causing 50% of colon cancers.
Nutrition and lifestyle, it is never too late
The previous paragraph shows an essential and vitally important fact, we can prevent a good portion of cellular degeneration. It is therefore necessary to try to eat in a healthy and balanced way, including lots of fruit and vegetables, practice physical activity, combat overweight and obesity, not smoke, avoid alcohol and sunbathe with due precautions, as well as avoid exposure to viruses and harmful and toxic substances, with appropriate behavior. It is important to underline, however, that it is never too late to make healthier lifestyle choices. In fact, research from a few years ago shows that reducing, even modestly, exposure to some of these factors makes the body stronger and more resistant, even in the case of a diagnosis of cellular degeneration (Wilson et al, IJC, 2017). Harvard University even states that 60% of cases of cancer with a fatal outcome can be avoided by adopting a healthy lifestyle, without smoking and limited alcohol intake, maintaining a body mass index between 18.5 and 27.5, following a healthy and balanced diet and doing physical activity, 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity, be it a brisk walk, dancing or even gardening (Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, News section - Kerschbaum et al, Visc med, 2019).
Anti-cancer lifestyle, other advice
According to studies, following a healthy diet to reduce the risk of developing cellular degeneration does not just mean including fruit and vegetables, especially non-starchy ones such as cabbage and broccoli, artichokes, green leafy vegetables, peppers and tomatoes. It is also important to consume whole grains and legumes while the guidelines recommend limiting red and processed meats and foods rich in fats and sugars such as fast food as much as possible. In addition to legumes, interesting sources of protein to replace red meat can include fish, poultry, dairy products and eggs. The diet should be varied because, for example, even if kale or raspberries are small superfoods, they alone cannot provide all the necessary nutrients (Kerschbaum et al, Visc med, 2019). Finally, studies have indicated the importance of including certain types of infusions and spices to counteract inflammation and cellular degeneration. A good choice is therefore not to miss green tea, turmeric, garlic, onion, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, chilli pepper and rosemary (Anand et al, Pharm Res, 2008).