A recent study conducted by the American Institute for Cancer Research has alarmed experts such as the Institute’s Melanie Polk, who is anxious about the study’s findings that the US public is still largely ignorant of the link between what we eat and the onslaught of the deadly disease.

In the body-conscious country renowned for producing a variety of fad diets and home to a rising national obesity rate, nutritionist Polk commented that the results of the survey “are of real concern.” While experts have insisted upon the need for a diet high in cancer preventative foods, more than half of the survey’s respondents relied solely on vitamin supplements to lower their risk of cancer. Only 39% took steps to change the types of foods in their diet.

Dr John Potter, of Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, believes that the lack of good food habits can be attributed in part to advertising. “The food supplements industry is worth US$40bn and the profit margin on vegetables and fruit is so small that they don’t even get advertised.”

He also adds that the fad diets, pills and supplements may be dangerous as we are not yet aware of their long-term effects on health. He points out that too much of a single nutrient can be unhealthy. Polk meanwhile argues that the benefit of eating the right foods means that your body receives the complex mixture of phytochemicals which merely popping dietary pills and supplements does not supply.

The goodness and cancer-preventative benefits of fruit and vegetables has been proved in scientific tests time and again, most recently appearing to cut the cancer risk by a third when eaten regularly. Grapes contain chemicals that fight cancer and heart disease, tomatoes have elements that prevent prostate cancer, and berries are loaded with the cell-protective ellagic acid.

Many factors can contribute to the presence of different cancers, but the continual impact of high-fat foods is a risk that must no longer be underestimated. In light of the survey’s findings, the AICR has organised a new campaign, which hopes finally to highlight the importance of a good, old-fashioned cancer preventative diet. The US public will be advised to stick to foods such as tuna fish, whole grains, beans and, of course, ample helpings of fruit and vegetables.

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