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Certain Foods Cause Cancer: Fact Or Myth?

In an exclusive interview with Bhupendra Paintola, Businessworld, Luke Coutinho, Holistic Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine, speaks on relation between food, nutrition, lifestyle in cancer.

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Can food cause cancer?

Cancer is multifactorial. No one food can cause cancer. Otherwise, everyone eating that food would have cancer. But food can impact inflammation, it can impact immunity, it can impact your microbiome, which is related to immunity and can cause inflammation. So, it's a circular argument; you can never say that food will cause cancer. However, ultra-processed food is, of course, bad. It can create inflammation in the body, and inflammation can trick the immune system into working the wrong way. And certain microscopic cancer cells can slip past the guard of the immune system. 

How are food and lifestyle corelated in cancer?

Even worse is that certain foods change our behaviour. Certain foods don't allow us to sleep well. So now you're sleep deprived and you've eaten the wrong food. Sleep deprivation has a direct correlation with inflammatory diseases, not just cancer but all inflammatory diseases. However, there are potential carcinogens found in grilled foods and barbecued because of coal and certain toxins. So, there are foods that contain certain carcinogens, but a carcinogen is a possible element that can cause cancer. It doesn't necessarily mean it will. Even the air we breathe has many carcinogens, but that doesn't mean everyone's going to get cancer. It's the basis of the immune system, how your DNA works, and your overall lifestyle. When you eat food, it either nourishes you or creates a disease or a problem in the body because every cell in the human body requires oxygen and nutrients to function and survive. So, if it gets the wrong nutrients, a lack of oxygen, you have possible problems in the body. Hence, this is the importance of food for all diseases.

Can there be specific diet for cancer patients?

The diet is dependent on bio-individuality. Knowing which drug is going into your body and what it's depleting so that you can add that nutrition back into your body is important. And of course, supporting the body to prevent collateral damage is what goes into a diet plan. It's not just the list of great foods. There are certain foods that support angiogenesis and certain foods that support DNA repair, so they're complementary to the treatment. It has to work together. And during every phase of the treatment, the diet will be different. So, there are certain foods that you cannot use when a patient is going through chemotherapy and there are certain foods that you can use in the building phase. So, it's a very scientific approach, and you can never have the same diet for the same patient because of the nature of the disease. And that's why it can never be a fad diet or a trending diet. It has to be based on precision nutrition.

Tags assigned to this article:
healthcare cancer hiv nutrition food lifestyle Luke Coutinho