Kenneth L Abbott, MD, FACP  |  6/21/2022

Food, Glorious Food

And you thought this was going to be about the musical “Oliver!” Some other time, perhaps.

Few persons who visit this blog have likely heard of an Italian Renaissance painter named Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526-1593), but there’s an excellent chance they’ve seen one of his fanciful paintings in which he depicted human-like faces composed of fruits, vegetables, and other plants. Grade school classes or books on nutrition often illustrate the old adage “You are what you eat” with one of these works.

Summer, 1563, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

No one disputes that our bodies are composed from a myriad of biochemical compounds synthesized from the proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and other nutrients we ingest. We all know—at least in our heads—the benefits of good nutrition, of healthy and well-balanced diets. And we also recognize the damages arising from poor nutrition and malnutrition. But what does nutrition have to do with cancer? What role might it have in prevention of cancer, or helping to reduce an individual’s risk of developing cancer? Once cancer develops, is there a place for consuming certain foods, so-called “superfoods” that might actually fight cancer? And what can nutrition contribute to recovery from cancer treatment?

Starting with today’s post, I intend to write a series of articles on the non-controversial subject of cancer and nutrition. I’ll take a careful look at what medical science has determined about the complex interplay between cancer risk and disease development with the substances that we ingest, why we don’t know more about this subject than we do, where to find good advice about cancer and nutrition (and where not to look), some mistaken ideas regarding the role of nutrition (see my earlier post on sugar, for example), and some practical advice regarding possible cancer prevention and how to eat intelligently when undergoing treatment for cancer. Please use the comments section to ask me related questions and I will try to address them in future posts.
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