Cancer warning: ‘Strong evidence’ a type of vegetable increases risk of stomach cancer

Stomach cancer: Surgeon explains the symptoms

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Cancer kills tens of thousands of Britons each year and the global picture is even more gloomy. Cancer accounted for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, or nearly one in six deaths. Faced with these figures, fighting cancer can seem like a lost cause. However, you can modify your risk of the potentially deadly disease.

Research into the role diet plays in influencing the risk of cancer has alighted upon some surprising findings over the years.

One of the more eye-opening discoveries is that pickled vegetables probably increase the risk of cancer.

That’s the conclusion of a 2018 report by the World Cancer Research Fund.

“There is strong evidence that consuming foods preserved by salting increases the risk of stomach cancer,” the report states.

Research mainly refers to high-salt foods and salt-preserved foods, which include “pickled vegetables”, it says.

What accounts for this link?

Scientists believe the increased stomach cancer risk from salt-preserved foods is because they contain a large amount of salt, which infuses the foods during the preservation process.

Experimental research has shown that salt damages the stomach lining and causes lesions, which, if left to develop, can become stomach cancer.

Helicobacter pylori infection is relatively common in parts of Asia and is also an independent cause of stomach cancer.

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Indeed, the evidence linking pickled vegetables to stomach cancer is “strongest” in Korea and China, where it’s a custom.

That’s the conclusion of a meta-analysis into the link published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of observational studies to evaluate the existing evidence.

Searching PubMed, Vip Chinese Periodical, and China National Knowledge Infrastructure databases, researchers found a total of 60 studies.

They compared gastric cancer, also known as stomach cancer, risk in pickled vegetable/food users versus nonusers or versus those in the lowest reported category of use.

After pooling together their findings, the researchers found a “potential 50 percent higher risk of gastric cancer associated with intake of pickled vegetables/foods and perhaps stronger associations in Korea and China”.

However, the evidence on salt in diets from elsewhere in the world is inconclusive – this could be because of difficulties in measuring total salt.

Evidence on total salt intake, from studies worldwide, doesn’t show a strong link with stomach cancer.

More research therefore needs to be done to examine the impact of high-salt foods commonly eaten in the West.

How much salt should I be consuming?

Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day (2.4g sodium) – that’s around one teaspoon.

In the UK labels on pre-packed food must say how much salt they contain.

“Look out for the salt content in the everyday foods you buy, and choose lower-salt options,” advises the NHS.

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