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Eating an Antioxidant-Rich Diet May Cut Risk of Pancreatic Cancer


Some may wonder just how much of an impact a healthful diet can have on the risk of developing serious illnesses. A new study reveals the impact could be quite profound. It suggests consuming a diet high in antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium may slash the risk of developing pancreatic cancer by two thirds. Researchers indicate if this link proves to be a cause-effect relationship, one in 12 of these deadly cancers might be prevented.

Globally, pancreatic cancer kills more than a quarter of a million people every year. Particularly aggressive, it has the poorest survival rate of any malignancy with only 3 percent of its victims surviving past five years.

Study findings reveal antioxidant foods dramatically slash pancreatic cancer risk.

In the research, published in the journal Gut, scientists tracked the health of more than 23, 500 people who were 40 to 74 years old. Participants were required to keep a detailed account of the amount and type of each food they ate for a week, along with the means they used to prepare it. Scientists used this data to calculate nutrient values of each person’s diet.

Forty-nine people developed pancreatic cancer within 10 years of the study’s onset. The diets of those diagnosed with the illness were compared to those of 4,000 healthy people to ascertain any difference in nutrient intake. Participants whose diet had the most selenium-rich foods had only half the risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared to those whose diet had the least. Moreover, the risk of pancreatic cancer was 67 percent lower for those whose diet had nutrient intakes of vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium in the top 25 percent of consumption.

The hopeful implications of the study

This is the latest in an expanding body of evidence indicating the food we eat may play a significant role in the risk of incurring cancer and other serious diseases. Antioxidants not only boost immunity but also protect cells from the harm caused by free radicals, which are by products of metabolism and normal call activity.

The study shows an association rather than a cause-effect relationship. Researchers note that if a causal effect is confirmed by other studies, dietary guidelines may be used to help prevent pancreatic cancer. Vincent Vinciguerra, MD, of Don Monti Division of Oncology/Hematology at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Monter Cancer Center in Lake Success, N.Y., says the study gives us hope in identifying nutritional factors that have a bearing on this disease. He notes that if the findings hold, doctors may be able to offer these dietary recommendations for people at high risk of this cancer.

Food sources of vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium

Good sources of vitamin C include fruits and vegetables such as citrus, red berries and spinach, along with cantaloupe, broccoli and tomatoes. Sources for vitamin E include vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, as well as wheat germ, egg yolks and green vegetables. Sources for selenium include fish, sunflower seeds and whole grains, in addition to walnuts, Brazil nuts and bran.

It is empowering to know that the foods we eat can substantially affect our health. While there are no guarantees, we can stack the odds in our favor by providing our bodies with the nutrients they need to function optimally and fight disease.


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