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CAT | Toxins and Health

Each year more people die from cancer than any other cause. In 2012 cancer was responsible for 8.2 million deaths globally, and a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that number will jump to 13 million over the next two decades. Annual cancer cases are also expected to increase from 14 million to 22 million, and experts say we need to shift our focus from treatment to prevention.

In looking at the information compiled in the WHO’s World Cancer Report 2014, experts warn that annual spending on cancer treatment—over a trillion dollars—is already crippling the international economy. They urge countries to focus instead on prevention and early detection efforts to reduce costs as well as improve global health.

What are the Main Risk Factors?
The WHO online Cancer Fact Sheet, updated this month, reveals alcohol and tobacco use as well as an unhealthy diet and physical inactivity are the main cancer risk factors worldwide, and more than 30% of cancer deaths could be prevented by modifying or avoiding key risk factors, which include:

  • Tobacco use
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Unhealthy diet with low fruit and vegetable intake
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Alcohol use
  • Sexually transmitted HPV-infection
  • Urban air pollution
  • Indoor smoke from household use of solid fuels

Prevention strategies should concentrate on increasing awareness about these risk factors through education and outreach; providing vaccinations when possible; and reducing exposure to physical, chemical and biological toxins. Early detection is critical and involves two main components: early diagnosis (based on preliminary signs and symptoms) and screening (routine testing to detect early warning signs).

Until science discovers a cure for cancer, we need to do our part by taking control of our health and making smarter choices about what we put into our bodies—beginning with a healthy diet (high in non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins, nuts and seeds) and regular exercise. Small steps indeed when world health is at stake!

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When it comes to smart food choices, some things are just common sense. Doughnuts and deep-fried candy bars? Probably not the best idea. Fresh, organic fruits and veggies? Definitely sounds like a better choice, right? But, as the experts at TIME Health & Family recently proved with their list of 9 Shocking Food Facts, the more you know, the better. Check it out!

1. Imported produce from the supermarket can have higher nutrient levels than local produce from a farmers’ market. The nutritional content of produce is determined by a number of factors, including temperature, light and soil. Though storage and transportation cause some types of produce to lose nutrients, studies show that antioxidants may actually increase in other cases. As counterintuitive as it seems, this means blueberries shipped long distances could be slightly more nutritious than those right off the bush.

2. Foods labeled “no trans fat” may legally contain some. The government allows manufacturers to round down anything less than 0.5 g of trans fat to zero. That means if you eat several servings of a so-called trans fat-free food—or a few such foods a day—you can wind up consuming measurable amounts of trans fat. To avoid it, check ingredient labels and steer clear of anything containing partially hydrogenated oils. (That may become easier if the Food and Drug Administration’s declaration that trans fats are unsafe holds, and they are banned from foods like doughnuts, baked goods and frozen pizzas.)

3. Decaffeinated coffee is not caffeine-free. Most decaf coffee has some caffeine. A decaf espresso, for example, can have as much as 16 mg. In a decaf latte, which contains two shots of espresso, that adds up to about the same amount of caffeine found in a can of Coke®.

4. Canned white tuna has about three times more mercury than chunk light. The species used for white tuna, albacore, is larger and accumulates more mercury than skipjack, which is used for chunk light. The better option? Canned salmon has less mercury than both types of tuna.

5. Fruit juice can have more calories and sugar than soda. An 8-oz. glass of apple juice has roughly 115 calories, compared with about 95 in Coke. A cup of grape juice contains 36g of sugar—about 9g more than in the same amount of Pepsi®. While the sugar in juice is natural (and not high-fructose corn syrup), it’s still sugar.

6. Not all fiber is created equal. To boost their fiber content, many packaged foods contain added fiber with names such as inulin, maltodextrin and polydextrose. While these count toward a food’s fiber total, they haven’t been proved to offer the same health benefits as the naturally occurring fiber found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

7. Cooked vegetables can be more nutritious than raw ones. Whether a vegetable is more nutritious cooked or raw depends on the vegetable, the nutrient and the cooking method. For example, we get more of the antioxidant lycopene from cooked tomatoes than from raw ones. Likewise, boiling carrots increases their levels of antioxidants called carotenoids. But cooking carrots also lowers amounts of other compounds.

8. “Multigrain” products aren’t necessarily whole grain. While multigrain may appear to be a synonym for whole grain or whole wheat—which is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and digestive problems—it’s not. It simply means the food is made from several grains, which may be whole or refined. To make sure the food is rich in whole grains, check the ingredients. The first one listed should contain the word whole.

9. Adding fat to your salad can make it more healthful. Eating vegetables along with fat can help the body better absorb their nutrients. So using a dressing with fat may make a salad with tomatoes and carrots, which are high in fat-soluble carotenoids, more nutritious than using a fat-free one or skipping the dressing altogether.



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