Getting the Diet “Just Right” – Vitamins, Minerals and the Goldilocks Effect

Joel Mason, MD of Tufts University Medical Center kicked off the opening plenary session of the 2014 AICR Research Conference with a deep dive into one of the most intriguing and – to the public, at least – confusing and even frustrating areas of cancer prevention research.canstockphoto3912708

As scientists learn more about the interplay between diet and cancer risk, it’s clearer than ever that the role of many dietary factors in several cancers is more complex than was once thought.

The entire plenary session of our research conference is focusing on the notion of the “Goldilocks Effect”– the idea that, for several dietary factors, the old idea of “more is better” is flatly wrong. (In scientific circles, this phenomenon is known as the “U-shaped curve,” which describes the graph of dose-response observed as consumption of a given dietary factor increases – from high risk (low consumption) to lower risk (adequate consumption) and back to high risk (high consumption).

Mason spoke on folate as a case in point: Habitually low consumption of folate is associated with higher risk for colorectal and other cancers, as low folate levels increase genomic instability in cells. But in some cases, getting too much folate in the diet has also been linked, in animal models and in some human studies, to increased risk. He stressed, however, that this finding remains controversial, as the evidence for a risk-increasing effect for folate is by no means as consistent as the evidence for its protective role. But until we learn more, he advised that the general population stick to the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation to limit folic acid intake to less than 1000 mcgs/day. Continue reading

Study: Supplements Increase Prostate Cancer Risk

Depending upon whether men have a lot or little of the mineral selenium in their bodies, taking large doses of either selenium or vitamin E can almost double the risk of an aggressive form of prostate cancer, suggests a new study. Vitamin E supplements increase all prostate cancer risk among men with low levels; selenium supplements increase risk among those with high levels.Composition With Variety Of Drug Pills And Dietary Supplements

The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Its findings, somewhat unexpected, adds to a complex body of research on supplements and cancer risk.

AICR currently recommends not relying on supplements to prevent cancer; instead, taking in your nutrients, phytochemicals and other cancer-fighting compounds from food.

The study continues the findings from a large trial that was stopped back in 2008. Called the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT), the study was investigating whether selenium and/or vitamin E could lower prostate cancer risk. Both are essential for good health and have antioxidant activity. Continue reading

Supplements a “Waste of Money” for Disease (Cancer) Prevention?

Over half of Americans take supplements, many with the hope of preventing chronic disease and staying mentally sharp. Yet it’s a waste of money, writes a group of physicians in a strongly-worded editorial published today.Supp_canstockphoto7372360

The editorial — stating “Enough is Enough” in the title — was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

For cancer risk, AICR’s expert report and its continuous updates also found there is not enough evidence showing supplements offer protection. AICR recommends not relying on supplements, instead getting in your cancer-protective phytochemicals and nutrients from food.

The editorial cites three major articles. One was an analysis focusing on supplement use and cancer, along with cardiovascular disease, and mortality. That analysis was by the United States Preventive Services Task Force and published last month: we wrote about it here. Continue reading