Eating a nutritionally balanced high-quality diet may lower a cancer patient’s risk of dying by as much as 65 percent, new research suggests.
The finding that total diet, rather than specific nutritional components, can affect a cancer patient’s prognosis “was particularly surprising to us,” said the study’s lead author, Ashish Deshmukh.
Total diet, he explained, was one that appeared to be “balanced” and “nutrient-rich” with a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins and dairy.
To explore the impact of nutrition on cancer, the researchers sifted through data collected between 1988 and 1994 by the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). Almost 34,000 people were included in the survey, which asked all participants to offer up a 24-hour diet diary.
The team then used the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” as a yardstick for ranking the nutritional quality of the diets used by 1,200 people who had been diagnosed with cancer.
Deshmukh noted that the investigation did not assess the exact length of the survival benefit, nor did the researchers explore how exercise or other types of healthy behavior may impact cancer outcomes. Only an association was seen between diet and death risk, not a cause-and-effect link.
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