Eating well can keep your body strong–but can food choices actually shield you from devastating diseases like cancer? Charlotte Kellogg, who writes around the web about a variety of public health programs and nutrition-related topics, debunks five “food myths” in the post below. Her article builds on prior Wonder Food articles about the power, both real and perceived, of a balanced diet.
Public Health Myths: 5 Foods That Don’t Cure Cancer
According to a recent report by Daily Mail Online contributor Emily Allen, 10 percent of adults believe that certain healthy foods and beverages (known as “superfoods”) can prevent or minimize one’s risk of cancer. However, medical experts warn there is no evidence that these edible items carry any cancer-preventing properties – and historically, research studies that make such claims have been highly inconclusive. Today, doctors warn that the following five superfoods, while somewhat nutritious, should not be relied upon to cure cancer.
Though studies show that eating regular quantities of raw almonds can help people lower their cholesterol and lose weight, the nuts’ status as a cancer-preventing superfood has been disputed in recent years. Almonds are high in fiber, and this can greatly improve the health of one’s colon. However, researchers have been unable to establish a definitive link between eating almonds (or even keeping a high-fiber diet) and significantly lowered risk of colon cancer.
In recent years, several studies have touted acai berries as an effective (and delicious) cancer-fighting agent. But according to a Yahoo! Voices article titled “Acai Berries and Cancer Prevention,” this claim is somewhat misleading. Acai berries are rich in antioxidants, moreso than most other foods. Researchers have established a link between high antioxidant intake and reduced stress among cancer patients, as well as the reversal of cell damage. However, there is no evidence that acai berries actually prevent cancer from occurring in individuals who consume them.
A 2010 study conducted at Louisiana State University proclaimed black rice was arguably the most effective superfood ever, primarily due to its high content of both fiber and antioxidants. However, neither of these nutrients has been officially linked to any concrete cancer prevention. And as Allen noted, the fiber content of black rice is on par with that of whole-grain rice, which is much more cost-effective.
Within the last few years, several publications – including Science Daily – have reported that pomegranate juice could effectively reduce one’s risk of prostate cancer. However, a recent CBS News article titled, “Prostate Cancer Self-Defense: 9 Deadly Myths” noted that the studies supporting this claim are somewhat inconclusive because they were performed in a test tube – not on a living patient. “If you’re at a high risk for the disease, you could try it,” said Dr. Herbert Loper, director of the Smilow Comprehensive Prostate Cancer Center at New York University Langone Medical Center. “But try it without a false sense of expectation.”
Though a key study reported that the high antioxidant content in raw popcorn can prevent cancer in those that consume it, Dr. Tom Smith of Guardian UK recently pointed out a key aspect of this study – it used animal, not human, test subjects. “There’s a big problem in extrapolating from results reported in animals to human beings,” he wrote. “We are very far from knowing how popcorn might change the risk of cancer in people, if it does at all.” He added that high intake of popcorn can actually lead to weight-related medical issues, such as obesity or diabetes.