The rationale for a role for diet and nutrition in the prevention and treatment of cancer

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Abstract

There is considerable evidence to support dietary recommendations for prevention of cancer as well as for patients undergoing or recovering from cancer treatment. We consider here implications from human, animal and in-vitro studies of the effects of dietary factors (macronutrients and micronutrients-phytochemicals) on cancer. An important epidemiology study, the China Project found a significant correlation between disease incidence and markers of animal product consumption. Evidence of the role of animal protein in the promotion of cancer also comes from animal studies. Food restriction has been shown in human and animal studies to slow cancer progression. Phytochemicals from whole plant foods are protective against oxidative stress, inhibit cell proliferation, induce cell-cycle arrest, and apoptosis, act as antiangiogenesis factors, and inhibit cyclooxygenase-2, which has been related to metastasis. Some mechanisms that mediate the effect of diet on cancer involve cell signaling through insulin factors and mammalian target of rapamycin, a nutrient sensing complex related to growth, altered gene expression through epigenetics, and the effects of microbial metabolites produced by the gut microbiota that is strongly influenced by dietary factors. The evidence accumulating for many years indicates that diet, what we eat every day, can affect disease. Besides preventing the development of cancer, this could also be harnessed to positively influence treatment outcomes as well as prevent recurrence. As research strategies developed for drug studies are not appropriate, it is important that new methodologies be developed to study these effects.

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