An emerging line of research focuses on the relationship between diet and cancer. Epidemiologist Dr. Walter Willett, Department Head of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, and longtime spokesperson for eating a healthy diet, leads some of the efforts in this important area of research. In a recent interview in Cancer Today Magazine he explained that the current research points to the relationship between a healthy diet and cancer prevention, but there is still a lot more work to be done.
There are a few things that are very clear, Willett tells us:
What has emerged over the last couple of decades is evidence that it’s important to control weight and weight gain because being overweight or obese is related to many cancers. So, as an adult, avoiding that pound or two creep-up every year is one of the most important things we can do, in addition to not smoking, to reduce cancer risk.
It is difficult however, through academic studies to definitively prove a correlation between cancer occurrence or reoccurrence. Willett and many researchers like him who are motivated by cancer rates in the US, are looking to change that:
But underlying our research, and what has motivated us to study this, is that we know there are parts of the world where people have very low rates of almost every type of cancer, and that when people from those low incidence areas come to the U.S., they often adopt our cancer rates. This says in a powerful way that these rates are not due to genetic factors and that we have the potential—if we can identify those modifiable factors and act upon them—to dramatically reduce rates of cancer in Western countries.
We applaud Dr. Willett’s research and follow it closely. It’s good to know that there are powerful advocates of nutrition who are out there figuring out how to improve the health of our nation and the world. We encourage you to take a look at Dr. Willett’s video below to learn how just a few basic changes in diet can make a significant difference to long-term health and wellbeing. And, if you’re curious to see the global cancer footprint, here is a link to an interactive map that might surprise you.
PHOTO: courtesy of hsph.harvard.edu
- Eating Well: Walter Willett believes research will show that a healthy diet can reduce cancer risk via Cancer Today
- Cancer’s Global Footprint via PRI’s The World
- Interview with Dr. Walter Willett via The Center for Spirituality & Healing