World Cancer Research Report on foods

A bad news week for bacon - but diet drinks and coffee in the clear


Things looked bleak for lovers of big breakfasts last week when the World Cancer Research Fund delivered its verdict on the link between cancer and bacon, but not all the news in this report was bad. While the media homed in on the increased risk of cancer from processed meats and alcohol, this epic report that reviewed 7,000 studies of diet, exercise, weight and cancer did have its positive side - coffee, for instance, was unlikely to 'have a substantial effect on cancer', it said.

Artificial sweeteners like saccharin, cyclamates and aspartame were let off the hook too - at least in terms of cancer. These sweeteners have been under suspicion for years, but although research has found that very high doses of artificial sweeteners, especially saccharin, increased bladder cancer in animals, the report points out that the studies used huge amounts that were far greater than anything humans would normally consume in food and drinks. What's more, the evidence from epidemiological studies (meaning studies of disease trends in different populations) shows no detectable effect on cancer risk, it concluded.

But back to breakfast. If you're looking for something to replace bacon with your eggs, you could do worse than cooked tomatoes: they're rich in carotenoids - the plant pigments also found in orange and yellow fruit and veg, spinach and Asian greens, and which the WCRF report says probably lower the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx and lung. And stir in some crushed garlic too - likely to help prevent bowel and stomach cancer. Other good news?

-Foods containing folate - think liver, spinach, beans, broccoli, oranges, cos lettuce, avocado, asparagus and paw paw - get the thumbs up for probably protecting against cancer of the pancreas.

- Onions, chives, leeks - and more garlic may help prevent stomach cancer.

- Selenium, a mineral found in brazil nuts, sunflower seeds and fish probably protects against prostate cancer.

-Dairy products? A mixed verdict here - while milk probably lowered the risk of bowel cancer, the
report said, there was some evidence that diets high in calcium were a probable cause of prostate cancer.

By the way, if you want to replace bacon at breakfast, cooked mushrooms are hard to beat because of their strong flavour and meaty texture. They also make a good substitute in recipes - like pasta sauces - that include bacon.

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