ACADEMIC PROPOSES MORE CONTROL AND STUDIES ON THE CARCINOGENIC POTENTIAL OF PROCESSED FOOD

“THERE SHOULD BE A STRICTER REGULATION OF THE COMPONENTS, PRESERVATIVES, OR OTHER CHEMICALS THAT ARE USED IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY”, POINTED OUT PROFESSOR NELSON BROWN, FROM THE MEDICAL RESEARCH CENTRE OF THE UTALCA.



January 21, 2016

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the country after cardiovascular diseases and about 35% of malignant tumors at the global level are associated with dietary factors.

In this regard, the director of the Medical Research Centre of the School of Medicine of the University of Talca (UTALCA), Dr. Nelson Brown, stressed that it is necessary to increase the controls by the health authorities and the research on substances used in the industry of processed foods.

“There should be stricter regulations on the components, preservatives, or other chemicals that are used in the food industry, (...) I think that is a pending task that has to be done, obviously, in conjunction with the food industry,” said the scientist.

Recently the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that some processed foods derived from animal meat —such as sausages and cured meats— could generate tumors.

Daunting Task

The researcher from the UTALCA admitted that despite the importance of new experimental studies that evaluated various substances used in this industry (preservatives, colorings, flavors, etc.), obtaining accurate and definite results is still an extremely complex task.

“The problem that I see is the complexity of the task, because they are many (compounds) with carcinogenic potential, and it is difficult to conduct a study to give a definitive answer. For example, in the case of the saccharin, experiments were made in rats many years ago. And in fact, rats fed with saccharin developed some types of cancer. However, due to the large doses of saccharin used in these studies (which are not expected to be consumed by one person in normal conditions), it is difficult to draw conclusions that can be extrapolated to the population. And that is the basis for the food companies to probably say that some components of foods do not cause any damage”, said Brown.

He added that next to the difficulties to verify scientifically the possible adverse effects that these compounds have for the health, there could be companies’ economic interests involved. “For example, for years the tobacco industry blocked any type of research aimed to affirm that cigarette smoke produced cancer. However, today it is a certain fact that some components of cigarette smoke effectively generate cancer,” he said.

Eating Healthy

Although the relationship between diet and cancer risk is complex and difficult to establish —because the human diet contains very diverse products— validated studies claim that eating fruits and vegetables helps to have a better health.

“It is always good to eat healthy and change our western diet (rich in animal fats) by a more Mediterranean diet, with the inclusion of more natural foods than industrialized ones. This is a measure that not only tends to decrease the prevalence or incidence of cancer, but also prevents cardiovascular disease”, explained Professor Nelson Brown, Director of the Medical Research Centre of the School of Medicine of the UTALCA.

“More physical exercise, less alcohol and less tobacco, are factors that are seen to have a positive impact on the survival of the people, either through a decrease in the rate of cardiovascular disease, or a decline in the incidence of any type of cancer,” he added.

Key Foods

Among the main food items that increase the risk of cancer are: grilled meats, burgers, steaks, fried foods, hydrogenated oils, refined sugars, margarine, fatty foods, alcohol, cheeses, cured meats, salamis and sausages.

In the meantime, the 10 foods that can prevent cancerous tumors are: broccoli, cabbage, ginger, carrots, green tea, grains, oats, rye, barley, tomatoes, blueberries, beans, lentils, chickpeas and brown rice.

The Report “Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective” —prepared by the National Fund for Cancer Research, United States— recommends the following for healthy eating: choose a diet based on different vegetables, fruits, legumes, cereals. Limit the intake of sugar and alcoholic beverages. Decrease the intake of red meats and if it was not possible at all, eat less than 80 grams daily.

Also avoid eating fatty foods, especially of animal origin. Also, limit the consumption of salty foods and those with chemical contaminants such as pesticides. Also, do not eat unnecessary supplements.



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