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Healthy Foods - Are Some Dangerous?

Fitness for mind and body.

In certain cases, new studies suggest that a food that is good for most people may be questionable for a select few. Alternatively, they suggest that a food that is healthy in moderation could be dangerous in excess. Rumors are not helping matters.

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Some will avoid soy due to a rumor it causes breast cancer. Others avoid milk like the plague because they heard it could give you diabetes. Many have written off canola oil due to an Internet report linking it to everything from prostate cancer to mad cow disease. In most cases, these rumors stem from a misinterpretation of some new headline-grabbing study. In other cases however, there is a bit of truth.

It is true that nutrition advice changes as more is learned, but based on what is now known to be fact, some of these myths can be debunked or at the very least, put into prospective.

Does Soy Cause Breast Cancer?

Soybeans Epidemiological studies showed that Japanese women, who eat considerable more soy foods than American women do, were far less likely to die from breast cancer. Consequently, soy hit the nutrition news in a big way. Now however, epidemiologists are much more cautious. Recent research suggests that eating tons of soy, which is rich in nutrients called isoflavones that have weak, estrogen-like effects, may not be such a good idea for postmenopausal women. The more a woman's breasts are exposed to estrogen, the higher the risk of breast cancer. Adding isoflavone-rich soy to the diet increases estrogen levels slightly and consequently, breast cancer risk. In truth, there is no certainty to this theory yet.

To be on the safe side, one or two servings of soy a day is fine for all ages. That supplies you with 30 to 50 mg of isoflavones. Studies also suggest eating soy may help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Soy and Your Thyroid

Soy products appear to have a mild thyroid-toxic effect in infants. Iodine supplementation routinely added to soy-based infant formulas appears to negate that effect. As an adult, if you have an under-active thyroid, also known as hypothyroidism, limiting yourself to just a few servings of soy a week is probably prudent. Soy can interfere with the absorption of medications for hypothyroidism, such as Synthroid. Do not eat any products containing soy within four hours of taking the medication.

Does Vitamin C Feed Tumors?

In the early 1970s, Nobel laureate Linus Pauling suggested large doses of vitamin C could cure something as annoying as the common cold or as deadly as advanced-stage cancer. Since, vitamin C has been in and out of the headlines. With each new study that comes along, its reputation seesaws.

A study done in New York recently confirmed that large doses of vitamin C might lessen the effectiveness of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Both the therapies kill cancer cells by a process called oxidization. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that might interfere with this process. By zapping cancer cells in a test tube with radiation, those with the most vitamin C suffer the least damage. However, there is no clinical data on what happens in the human body. If you are getting cancer treatment, tell your doctor about everything you are taking. Everything! Herbs, vitamins, supplements, anything.

If you insist on taking vitamin C, limit your dosage to 60mg per day. Research does confirm that dietary vitamin C plays a vital role in your health, keeping your immune system functioning as it should and protecting you from scurvy, gum disease, gallbladder attacks, heart disease and stroke among other nasty stuff. The final decision is up to you.

Does Milk Cause Diabetes and Prostate Cancer?

Some recent research has suggested there may be a very weak link between high milk intake and prostate cancer. Currently however, it is too preliminary to suggest a change in diet. A recent investigation showed men at greater risk of prostate cancer also had very high calcium intakes -- about 2000mg a day. This figure is double the DV.

On the other side, various studies suggest that calcium could lower your risk of colon cancer, which kills more men than prostate cancer. See also: Obesity and Prostate Health.

As for the diabetes concern, some research suggests a link between drinking milk during infancy and a risk of type 1 diabetes in babies with a family history of the disease. In these children, the theory goes, drinking cow's milk during the first year of life may trigger an auto immune reaction that destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. To date, this link is not well established. The American Diabetes Association has no official position on milk and diabetes.

A clinical trial now underway will shed more light on this concern. Advice to men: drink your milk. If you are under 50, aim for the DV for calcium of 1,000mg. If you are over 50, try to stick to an average of 1,200mg daily. Milk can lower your risk of colon cancer, osteoporosis, heart attack and stroke. As for diabetes and milk, advice for babies is they are breast-fed the first year. The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees. If you cannot breast feed and you have a family history of type-1 diabetes, use a soy-based formula.

Is Canola Oil a Cancer Risk for Men?

Canola Oil No food is more maligned on the Internet than Canola oil. Healthy for most, canola oil is one of those foods that may not be so wonderful in large amounts for others. Canola oil is rich in alphalinolenic acid, a plant version of omega-3 fat and an essential fatty acid that our bodies cannot produce and must get from food. Four studies tied diets high in alphalinolenic acid to higher rates of prostate cancer. But in most of the studies, the acid came mostly from meat. Both diets high in meat and saturated fat from meat have been linked to prostate cancer in other studies. There truly is not enough evidence right now to suggest men with prostate cancer should avoid canola oil. However, to be safe, use olive or peanut oils, which are excellent and beneficial to your health. In addition, focus on fruits and vegetables in your diet.

Debunking the Myths on Canola Oil

Canola oil has nothing to do with mad cow disease. Despite Internet reports, canola oil is not loaded with a substance called erucic acid, once thought to be toxic. The particular seeds from which canola oil is extracted are from a type of rapeseed plant low in erucic acid. Recent studies show that erucic acid is not a health threat to humans.

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