Can the disease of the century be prevented by diet and a healthy lifestyle? “With minor lifestyle interventions you can create good immunity”

Nutrition, hydration, exercise, rest – all play an important role in the “strategy” of each of us to stay healthy for as long as possible. But how many of us think that if we pay attention to these factors, we can prevent, as much as we can, the “attack” of free radicals, inflammation and other factors that lead to the appearance of cancer cells in the body? The lifestyle is closely related to the health of our body, and with minor interventions on the way of life, a good immunity of the body can be created, and it can resist the increasingly aggressive disease.

Movement in the open airPhoto: Allen and Kleanthous / ImageSource / Profimedia Images

The number of cancer cases is increasing alarmingly both in Romania and in the world. Cancer represents a major public health problem worldwide and every year, in the first week of February, World Cancer Day is marked, in an attempt to bring this pathology to the public’s attention, to raise awareness of the fact that there are efforts and concerns around the world for the prevention, early detection and treatment of this disease.

In recent years, more and more studies have appeared that link the occurrence of the diseases that represent the number 1 cause of death in the world – cardiovascular diseases or cancer – to lifestyle, diet, stress or pollution (certain types of cancer). World Health Organization points out that healthy eating and exercise (maintaining a healthy weight) are essential for good health and protect against serious chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer. The WHO recommends eating as varied and healthy foods as possible and reducing the consumption of salt, sugars, trans-saturated fats and processed foods. According to the WHO, a healthy diet includes staples such as grains (wheat, barley, rye, corn or rice), root vegetables (potatoes), legumes (lentils and beans), fruits and vegetables, and foods from animal sources (meat, fish, eggs and milk).

It is good to know that foods that protect our health, together with a balanced lifestyle, with a lot of physical activity and sufficient periods of rest, can have a significant impact in maintaining good health for as long as possible, he explains to HotNews .ro Lygia Alexandrescu, consultant in sports nutrition, food education and nutritional communication.

The statistics are harsh:

  • In Romania, there are currently 550,000 cancer patients in the doctors’ records.
  • ​The number of new cancer cases in our country was 21% higher in 2023 compared to the previous year.
  • 9.6 million people die of cancer every year in the world.
  • Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the world, after cardiovascular diseases.
  • 70% of deaths occur in low and medium developed countries.
  • 3.7 million lives could be saved through assessment and screening programs.
  • The total economic cost of fighting cancer in the world is estimated at more than 1 trillion dollars.

“Lifestyle information can save lives”

Experience shows worldwide that there are effective programs through which lifestyle information can save lives. With minor interventions on the way of life, a good immunity of the body can be created, and it can resist the increasingly aggressive disease, says nutritionist Lygia Alexandrescu.

The food consumed must be whole, local, as close as possible to the way nature gives it to us, avoiding as much as possible the intake of processed food products and sugar, especially processed fructose. All forms of sugar are dangerous to health, and their consumption favors the occurrence of cancer. Fructose is clearly a harmful carbohydrate and should be avoided as much as possible, advises the nutritionist.

Then, 3 hours before going to bed is the period when we should not consume any food. There is clear evidence showing that by feeding the body with nutrients, namely the cellular mitochondria at times when they do not need energy, a large number of free radical-generating electrons are transferred, thus creating an aggressive attack by these species very harmful reagents on the cell membrane and implicitly on the DNA nucleus.

Lygia Alexandrescu, consultant in sports nutrition, food education and nutrition communication

Optimizing the level of Vitamin D in the body is also essential. Studies show that vitamin D influences at the cellular level and is one of the most formidable fighters against cancer. It seems that Vitamin D is able to enter the cancer cell and induce the process of apoptosis – the death of the diseased cell. This is why people suffering from this disease must keep their vitamin D levels elevated, between 70 – 100 ng/mL, says the nutritionist.

Limiting proteins is another strategy to combat the activity of mTOR, a protein kinase involved in the emergence and development of tumors. Therefore, 1 g protein/kg body/24 h is a maximum protein intake that should be ingested, says the nutritionist.

Weight loss – protective factor against cancer

Increasing insulin sensitivity, regulating the balance of satiety and hunger hormones, leptin/ghrelin, decreasing metabolic syndrome parameters by increasing insulin sensitivity, reducing inflammation markers, etc. can be done through intermittent fasting. Insulin is the key hormone involved in storing energy from food. It grows when we eat. Always when we eat, glycogen is regenerated, and when deprived of food, the body uses its liver and muscle glycogen stores, but after a maximum of 12 hours, in the absence of other food ingestion, these stores are consumed and the body switches to the progressive consumption of adipose tissue existing in the body. Thus the body begins to burn fat and weight loss occurs, a protective factor against the occurrence of cancer.

Daily exercise keeps the basal metabolism active and decreases the risk of cancer precisely by maintaining a low level of insulin and by inducing the apoptosis of diseased cells.

Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, may be an important ingredient in fighting the inflammation that generates tumor cells.

Limiting or excluding alcohol, avoiding exposure to electromagnetic fields or exposure to Bisphenol A (resulting from heating food in plastic containers) are some other interventions that can prevent cellular changes.

Cooking meat directly on the flame generated by coals is correlated with the appearance of tumor cells, due to acrylamide, an extremely toxic substance.

Nutrition, exercise, hydration and rest

In conclusion, nutrition, exercise, hydration, rest play an important role in the strategy of a person who wants to stay healthy for as long as possible and prevent, as much as possible, the attack of free radicals, inflammation and other factors that lead to the appearance of cells cancerous. Essential in this ongoing struggle are:

  • limiting fat, sugar and sodium intake;
  • moderate consumption of mineral, vitamin and antioxidant supplements on a regular basis;
  • consuming fruits and vegetables as fresh as possible and cereals in as integral a form as possible; these foods contain antioxidants, enzymes and dietary fiber. The latter help lower blood cholesterol levels and maintain colon health;
  • choosing fish as a source of superior protein; fish contains Omega 3 essential fatty acids, substances with high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power;
  • adequate hydration of the body with 30 ml of water/kg body/day; water is essential for the health of the skin, muscles, blood circulation, etc.
  • avoiding body weight fluctuations;
  • choosing vegetables rich in chlorophyll to the detriment of root vegetables (carrot, potato);
  • opting for fresh fruit or freshly squeezed fruit juices with all the fibrous pulp, instead of packaged juices (which are rich in sugar or artificial sweeteners/food additives);

“Here, the foods that protect our health, together with a balanced way of life, with a lot of physical activity and sufficient periods of rest, can have a significant impact in maintaining good health for as long as possible”, emphasizes nutritionist Lygia Alexandrescu .

The number of new cancer cases, increasing by over 20% in Romania

​The number of new cancer cases was 21% higher in 2023 compared to the previous year, according to data from the National Institute of Public Health, the Federation of Cancer Patient Associations, the largest association representing patients, reported earlier this week oncologists from Romania. According to the NGO, the number of people with cancer in Romania in the doctors’ records exceeded 550,000.

“We will not hope for access to new treatments, innovative treatments that can make the difference between life and death, the gap between us and the European Union remaining constant for 5-6 years. I am no longer talking about detecting cancers in the early phase, because the non-implementation of the National Plan to Combat Cancer did not generate the start of any population screening plan. We still have opportunistic screening, even on the cervix and breast, because we don’t have registers in this sense. You cannot talk about a national screening plan without having a registry dedicated to screening. (…) INSP reporting is below reality. (…) The situation is dire at the moment in Romania regarding the supply of medicines to hospitals”, says Cezar Irimia, president of the Federation of Associations of Cancer Patients.

According to the Federation of Associations of Cancer Patients, data from the European Cancer Inequalities Registry show that Romania has the highest premature mortality rate from breast cancer and cervical cancer in Europe, as well as the fourth highest premature mortality rate from cancer pulmonary.

Also, the World Health Organization raises a serious alarm about the health of the global population and announces that, by the year 2050, the number of cancer cases is expected to increase by 35 million new cases (77% compared to the year current).

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