Saturday, March 12, 2011
Fruit and vegetables do little or nothing to protect the body against breast, prostate, bowel, lung and other tumours, study reveals
London: If you thought your five a day was keeping cancer at bay, think again.
Fruit and vegetables do little or nothing to protect the body against breast, prostate, bowel, lung and other tumours, a large-scale study published by Britain's biggest cancer charity has concluded.
Instead, the cancer-conscious would be better off keeping slim, stopping smoking and cutting back on alcohol, the Oxford University researcher behind the findings said.
Professor Tim Key came up with the controversial conclusion after putting together the results of more than a dozen previous studies on the subject, involving more than 100,000 people from around the world.
For breast and prostate cancer — two of Britain's biggest killers — he found ‘little or no association' between eating fruit and vegetables and the risk of disease. For lung cancer, the link is "weak and inconsistent" and may simply be due to the figures being clouded by the toxic effects of smoking, according to the study published by Cancer Research UK in the British Journal of Cancer.
Mouth and throat cancers and stomach and bowel cancers are also unlikely to be kept at bay, said the professor.
The idea that eating our greens protects against cancer became popular in the mid-1970s and was backed up by various research over the following two decades.
But Professor Key says the results were likely to have been skewed by the inclusion of extra-healthy people among those studied and that later analyses, in which healthy people were tracked for years to see if they developed disease, provide a much more accurate picture.
He doesn't, however, rule out that evidence of the ability of fruit and vegetables to ward off cancer will emerge in the future. On the other hand the evidence for smoking, obesity and alcohol causing cancer is strong.
The professor concluded: "At least in relatively healthy, well-nourished Westernised populations, a general increase in total fruit and vegetable intake will not have a large impact on cancer rates.
"For bodies giving advice, it might be helpful to remind people that the things that are absolutely definite are smoking, alcohol and obesity."
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