Published on 06-15-2015
We have all heard the multitude of reasons to improve our diets. Very important texts such as the China Study and the Blue Zones (and many others), have highlighted all of the reasons why in great detail. There is a real benefit to eating a whole foods diet with a concentration on increasing vegetable intake.
The study that I'm writing about here is from a group of researchers at the School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia, Perth. This team performed a multicenter case controlled study looking specifically at the role of a quality diet and limiting the risk of leukemia. In the United States there are around 50,000 people diagnosed with leukemia each year (leukemia and lymphoma society) and it is a problem around the world. While far in numbers from the most common cancer, breast cancer, leukemia is a considerable problem globally.
The team analyzed diet and leukemia risk relationships over a 5 year period with people from the northeast and southeast of China. In their analysis, there where 442 people diagnosed with leukemia and 442 controls that were matched individually (age, gender, etc.). Information about their diet was obtained via in person conversations as we as questionnaire.
Their analysis found that there was a significant decrease in leukemia risk as the vegetable intake was increased. Interestingly, they did not see a significant raised risk from red meat, poultry, fish, or fruits. The primary factors in elevating the risk were frequent intakes of "fat, deep-fried, and smoked" foods. They concluded that "diets rich in vegetables and adequate amount of milk reduce the risk of adult leukemia, whereas diets preferring fat, deep-fried, and smoked foods increase the risk in Chinese populations."
I believe studies like this are important for two reasons - one, the obvious one, is that we need to improve our diets and this will improve our health - period. Second, and perhaps most important, is that dietary change does not have to be wildly strict to get at least some benefit. In this study, it was really just the avoidance of fried foods, smoked meats and large fat intake that made the difference. Not an extremely strict vegetarian or vegan diet. While the information in the China Study text, for example, would show more reasons for some deeper changes in diet, studies like this one show even moderate changes can improve health outcomes.
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