Why some foods should carry a cancer warning

Why some foods should carry a cancer warning

This article by a nutritionist in "The Conversation", reports on the evidence that some foods have a sufficiently high risk of causing cancer that they should come with warning labels:


Alcohol, more than 500 grams of cooked meat a week, processed meat and salty and salt preserved foods are under the spotlight.

With regard to which foods may reduce the risk of cancer, the nutritionist says:

...there is probable evidence that you can reduce your risk of bowel cancer by regularly eating garlic and foods high in dietary fibre, such as wholegrains, legumes, pulses, high-fibre cereals, vegetables and fruit. In fact, for every ten grams of fibre you consume per day, your risk reduces by 10%.

Eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables and fruits is associated with lower risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, oesophagus and stomach; while foods high in folate, such as green leafy vegetables, legumes, seeds, citrus fruits and fortified breads and cereals, are associated with lower risk of pancreatic cancer and diets high in calcium with lower risk of bowel cancer.

Worth bearing in mind when it comes to what and what not to eat, given our higher risk of developing secondary cancers.


The New Holland Honeyeater in the photo enjoys a mixed diet of insects and nectar. You need to have the right native plants around to attract them, which for me means a walk of about 1km before I see them around. One rather unique skill these birds have, is that they capture many insects on the wing and hold them in their bill, then return to their perch to eat them.


(Australia was named New Holland until the British overtook the Dutch interest in our great southern land.)

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7 Replies

  • Convincing restaurants and those who produce frozen prepared meals to season with things other than salt would be a big first step. There was an article here (US) recently about the worst eating establishments as far as things like fat and salt are concerned. Hands down Cheesecake Factory won with a pasta dish with unbelievable amounts of fat and salt, and more calories than one needs in a day. Most dangerous is that it sounds like a healthy meal, and everyone expects places like McDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken (didn't place so well) to be the leaders.


  • Yes it is the unknown additives and the often excessive amounts of fats, sugar and salt that can be a real problem.

    You have to admire the inventiveness of the product ingredient marketing, i.e. 100% fat free on products that by definition shouldn't contain any fat and low salt which is true, but then an increased amount of sugar is added to 'improve' the taste. The advertising around sugar, glucose, fructose, molasses, corn syrup, malt extract and so on and how these are used with misleading statements regarding the amount of natural sweetener is a subject in itself.

    Thankfully, processed foods now have to include a list of ingredients, but manufacturers are always changing the formulation, so I get plenty of practice reading fine print when I shop.

    I enjoy Chinese food, but not if it has monosodium glutamate (MSG) added. I've read of quite a few scientific reports that claim to have proven that MSG does not cause problems, yet I know from debilitating, painful and embarrassing experiences whenever I have Chinese food with added MSG. I can tolerate MSG in foods where it occurs naturally and I hold that if food is well prepared, it shouldn't need to have liberal amounts of flavour enhancer added to cover for poor cooking.

    "Eat widely and eat well" is a good motto. Eating from a wide range of foods minimises your exposure to possibly problematic substances, natural and artificial, plus you are more likely to satisfy your body's requirements for different vitamins and minerals. If you prepare your food from scratch, then at least you know what has been added, but that isn't always possible.


  • Thanks for mentioning MSG, Neil. For years I couldn't understand why I usually felt ill after having Chinese food, even though I love the flavours. When I mentioned this to a Chinese doctor friend, he instantly said "It's the Monosodium glutamate (MSG)".

    Also, we used to go to a conference centre where they didn't serve Chinese food, but I felt ill in a similar way after I'd eaten there. After what our Chinese friend had said, we asked the staff about MSG, and they said they put it in almost all their savoury stuff, even plain rice dishes. Since then, I've realised how many processed foods include MSG - soups, stews, crisps... and I've learnt to avoid such things. (I too have had lots of practice reading the fine print when I shop!). Aspartame (artificial sweetener in many "sugar-free" drinks and puddings), has a similar effect on me.

    I believe some research has supposedly "proved" that MSG does NOT cause problems, but I think it's like the wide range of differences within CLL - what suits some people can be disastrous for others.

  • Honestly, I've never heard such a load of rubbish in my life.

    My personal opinion is that the level of PUFAs is our diet is a major contributor to cancer. While small amounts of PUFAs are essential, we receive way more than we need, especially the omega 6s that are found in processed seed oils. Studies have recently shown that cancer cells thrive in PUFAs.

    The trouble with villifying any particular food or food group is that it's not the food itself that's the problem but the amount of it that's consumed. Any diet that focuses too much on a single food is likely to get you into trouble. That goes double if the focus is on processed foods like refined sugar and flour. Most diets that seem to work involve cutting out processed foods.

    Is salt really a dietary villain or is it just found in all the same places as highly processed food?

  • The saying ‘Moderation is all things springs to mind’ and perhaps we just need to move towards a Paleo diet or Mediterranean type of diet.


  • Yes, exactly.

    The main advantage of the paleo/primal type diet over the Mediterranean diet is that paleo/primal excludes gluten containing grains. Grains, especially wheat, barley and rye, are hard for everyone to digest - if I've understood this correctly, we haven't necessarily got the enzymes to digest the proline-glutamine bond in gluten. I've seen estimates that gluten sensitivity could be as high as 30% of the population... so that's 30% that might be able to calm down their immune systems by cutting gluten out of their diet. Something in our environment is pushing more people towards gluten sensitivity.

    Unfortunately, paleo/primal also excludes foods that can be highly beneficial for some, especially when properly prepared for digestibility, such as lentils and rice.

    I think diet is highly individual. The only common thread I see is that we should eat more foods that are unprocessed and nutrient dense.

  • Poing,you wrote ' I think diet is highly individual '

    THAT is really one of the main points, our gut biome's or gut bacteria are all different and so we absorb foods differently. Some cannot tolerate Glutens and some cannot tolerate dairy products and these tolerances vary with age and with the number of times we take penicillin for example.

    No one size fits all and we can only experiment to find what is best for us, at that moment in time.


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