We have long been convinced that a good diet can help prevent heart disease, cancer and many other life-threatening conditions. It is difficult for researchers to prove this in a study, however, since they would need to enroll hundreds of thousands of people and strictly control what they eat. Two new studies show that even people who have already been diagnosed with a serious disease can benefit from healthful eating.
One study just published in the journal Circulation, showed that people at high risk of heart disease were much less likely to die during the 5 years of study follow-up if they consumed a healthful diet. The 30,000+ volunteers in the study were at least 55 years old and had been diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease or a stroke. The scientists had randomly assigned people to receive a medication or placebo, but they also collected detailed dietary data. The individuals who filled their plates with vegetables, fruit, whole grains and nuts and chose fish more often than meat or eggs were 35% less likely to die from a stroke or heart attack. They were also less likely to have a nonfatal heart attack or stroke and 28% less likely to develop congestive heart failure. That’s a lot of benefit from dietary discretion, and the scientists concluded that a healthy diet in combination with appropriate medications can really save lives.
Another study examined diet among patients who had been diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Nov. 7, 2012). The researchers analyzed the glycemic load and total carbohydrate intake of these study participants and tracked their health while they received chemotherapy and for six months afterwards. Those who ate the most carbs, especially easily digested highly refined starches and sugars, were more likely to have a recurrence of their colon cancer or even to die during the study. We conclude from this that a diet low in glycemic load is probably better for us to follow even if we don’t think we are likely to develop colon cancer. After all, as the late Dr. David Servan-Schreiber told us in a wonderful interview, cancers love sugar.
If you would like dietary guidance, you’ll find plenty in our radio shows. You won’t want to miss our forthcoming interview with Dr. John LaPuma, ChefMD. He has some wonderful suggestions on a healthful diet that can help control cholesterol and aid in weight gain.
You may also be interested in our cookbook, Recipes and Remedies from The People’s Pharmacy. While the recipes are delicious, they were selected because they offer insight into a healthful way of eating that is low in glycemic load and rich in vegetables, fruits, fish and whole grains.
[Circulation, online Dec. 3, 2012; Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Nov. 7, 2012]