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Most of us know someone who is a cancer survivor or is currently fighting this ravaging disease. I’ve taken a strong interest in cancer prevention and survival largely because I’m shocked over and over at how confused many healthcare providers and consumers appear when it comes to cancer and nutrition. I’ve met several people who tell me that their doctors believe there isn’t a connection between nutrition and cancer. Yet some nutrition professionals and researchers argue that the cancer-nutrition connection is almost 100%! When I talk with patients or families, they are often confused about what the connection is, and often consume foods that I think no cancer patient should consume (and these foods are provided by the hospital!). What further confuses patients is that the education around the connection is inconsistent, or even influenced by profit. For example, formulary companies have helped set industry standards to promote weight maintenance among cancer patients. This is achieved with high calorie, high protein supplements – also sold by these companies – and are vigorously promoted in many hospitals.

Interestingly, I’ve heard oncology dietitians emphasize normalizing weight as quickly as possible, which is definitely a different message. Many dietitians promote reducing inflammation, and our diets and body weights are two very effective ways to achieve this.

Often, the advice dietitians might give for anti-cancer nutrition is opposing that which hospitals are promoting. What’s up with that?

While most of us now know that there is a wealth of evidence-based research exposing the links of cancer to nutrition, it is true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In other words, preventing cancer through good nutrition holds more promise than curing cancer through good nutrition.  While I don’t expect MDs and surgeons to provide substantial nutrition education to their oncology patients, I do believe they are practicing responsible medicine by referring their cancer patients to a Registered Dietitian. It is a red flag if your oncologist does not believe that nutrition and cancer are related, as it is a sign that he or she likely lives under a rock in the bottom of the sea. To be fair to yourself and your provider, carefully clarify your MD’s position on nutrition and cancer to ensure you are understanding his or her philosophy. And ask for a dietitian referral if your MD doesn’t offer it initially.

 
So, what are the best answers for preventing and surviving cancer through nutrition? What does your body weight have to do with cancer? How do we chart the mucky and mischevious rivers, known as “nutrition guidelines”?

 

Join me as I interview Gretchen Gruender, an expert oncology dietitian at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. She works closely with cutting edge oncologists and medical teams, guiding her patients with solid diet and lifeststyle advice. She will guide us along this river, giving us the tour of latest progressive insights behind nutrition and cancer. She will help us to identify the information we really need to know in cancer prevention and survivorship.

Are you interested in this topic? You have an opportunity to involve yourself in the audience. What questions do you have for Gretchen? Please write them in the comment box below, or post them on my Facebook page. I will select some of the questions to ask her on the show, and I will post this interview on my webpage for your review.

Love and Health,

Frances

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With all the excitement over the over-salted American diet and the need for reductions, you’d think that a lot of research stands to reason. Interestingly, there is a rather gaping hole just where we think our information would lie on sodium, disease processes, and upper limits. While there is some research to guide us, it is invariably mixed.

Background

In an effort to quantify the salt intake among patients with long-term Coronary Vascular Disease (CVD), the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) extracted and analyzed data. The method was to use 24-hour dietary recalls, or recalling everything you ate for 24-hours and evaluating the overall nutrient intake. Unfortunately, this method excluded seasonings and therefore cannot offer a truly quantitative analysis for how much sodium actually intake affected the outcomes of CVD patients. Despite its limitations, this study’s findings are now used to inform current sodium recommendations.

The problem is that the current evidence is inconclusive for heart disease, largely because there is a lack of research that tests the relationship between sodium and heart disease directly. This gap creates dilemmas in making appropriate health recommendations.

Unfortunately, if you already have heart disease, the stage of your condition and the medications you are taking may significantly alter whether sodium restriction is beneficial for you. In some cases, restriction has actually been correlated with an increased mortality rate for heart disease.  Since sodium plays a key role in the renin-angiotensin response (a crucial system which uses hormonal signals for regulating blood pressure, blood viscosity, kidney function, among other things), studies have shown that a moderate to severe restriction activates the renin-angiotensin system, which has the effect of increasing blood pressure and retaining fluids.

A grain of salt

I think that one thing we can take away is that the one-size fits-all recommendations for are proving to be of little use and are potentially dangerous. I agree with Dr. Richard Fogoros, M.D. in that randomized, prospective, controlled studies are overdue.

With Love and Health,

Frances

Extra resources & citations:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sodium/NU00284

http://heartdisease.about.com/cs/hypertension/a/saltwars.htm

Beich, K, Yancy, C. The Heart Failure and Sodium Restriction Controversy: Challenging Conventional Practice. Nutrition in Clinical Practice. 23; 2008, 477-486.

Photo: http://www.merckmanuals.com

 

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Meditation’s virtues have long been praised and—more recently—documented in studies on Buddhist monks, who devote their entire lives to the discipline. But how effective can it really be for Western meditators, who practice on average just 30–40 minutes a day while balancing an entirely different set of external responsibilities and social stresses than their more rigid Eastern counterparts? A team of researchers from Yale, Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently checked it out. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the scientists scanned the brains of 35 test participants—20 Western-style meditators and 15 control participants who had never practiced meditation or yoga.  The former group was instructed to meditate, while the latter was asked to relax and let their minds wander. The result? Brain regions associated with attention and sensory processing were denser in meditators (up to 4 to 8 thousandths of an inch thicker) than those of the control group. Moreover, the study demonstrated that regular meditation could reduce the effects of normal cognitive aging and perhaps even memory loss. “This was the first time anyone has looked at brain structure in meditation subjects,” said lead researcher Sara Lazar, Ph.D., a psychologist at Harvard Medical School. “Consistent with the reports of meditators, who claim that meditation affects all aspects of their lives, our findings suggest that cortical plasticity (structural changes of the brain) are not just limited to the amount of time spent actually sitting and meditating.” You don’t have to shave your head and hole yourself up in an ashram; even a half-hour of meditation delivers lasting mind-body health benefits.

-Lindsay Morris

Source: http://www.healinglifestyles.com

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By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) — Cancer survivors who participated in a month-long program in the ancient art of yoga reported enhanced quality of life, better sleep, less fatigue and less need for sleep medications.

“This is a readily applicable approach that improves quality of life and reduces medicine intake in cancer survivors. This is a real positive,” said Dr. Douglas W. Blayney, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). “This is also a creative application of scientific technique to complementary and alternative medical approaches. This applies real science.

“There is an increased importance of amelioration of the complications of therapy in long-term cancer survivors,” added Blayney, who is medical director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Michigan. “There are literally millions of patients to whom this might be applicable.”

The results of the trial, the largest randomized, controlled study on this topic to date, are to be presented at ASCO’s annual meeting, being held in June in Chicago.

Some 80 percent of cancer patients have trouble sleeping while undergoing treatment, and about two-thirds say the problems persist after treatment ends.

Despite these large numbers, few solutions exist.

The study authors involved 410 cancer survivors, average age 54, who had finished treatment two to 24 months before and who still reported greater-than-average sleep disruptions. Almost all of the participants were women, and three-quarters had had breast cancer, although the cancer had not spread. None had done any yoga in the past three months.

Participants were randomized either to receive regular follow-up care for cancer survivors or to receive regular care plus two 75-minute sessions of yoga per week for four weeks.

“We pulled components from gentle Hatha yoga and restorative yoga,” explained study author Karen Mustian, an assistant professor of radiation oncology and community and preventive medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. “The actual components of each class included seated, standing, transitional and supine postures, and breathing exercises known as pranayama.”

Emphasis was on breathing from the diaphragm rather than the chest and on mindfulness, visualization and guided meditation, she explained.

Yoga participants reported an improvement in sleep quality of 22 percent, while controls reported an improvement of only 12 percent, Mustian said.

Thirty-one percent of participants in the yoga group who had started out with clinically impaired sleep quality recovered vs. only 16 percent in the control group.

Fatigue in the yoga group was decreased by 42 percent, compared with only 12 percent in the control group.

Yoga participants reduced daytime sleepiness by 20 percent as compared to only 5 percent in the usual care group.

Quality of life improved, on average, 6 percent in the yoga group and not at all in the other group.

While the yoga group was able to get by with less sleep medication, people in the control group actually used more.

“It is possible that gentle Hatha yoga classes and restorative yoga classes might be useful to cancer survivors in communities across the U.S. in helping with side effects of cancer treatment, which help create impairments in quality of life,” Mustian said. “What we can’t say at this time is that other forms of yoga, such as heated, or more rigorous types of yoga would be effective in mitigating these side effects or be safe for cancer survivors.”

More information

The American Cancer Society has more on cancer survivorship.

SOURCES: May 20, 2010, news conference with: Karen Mustian, Ph.D., assistant professor, radiation oncology and community and preventive medicine, University of Rochester Medical Center, New York, and Douglas W. Blayney, M.D., ASCO president, professor, internal medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, and medical director, Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Michigan

Last Updated: May 21, 2010

Copyright © 2010 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Article can be found at http://healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=639340

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