The overall survival rate for lung cancer patients who have type 2 diabetes is much worse than for patients who are not diabetic. A recent study suggests that foods high in plant pigments can reduce the risk of lung cancer. Here’s what you need to eat.
The Effect of Diabetes Mellitus on Lung Cancer Prognosis, published in Medicine (Baltimore) in April 2016, indicates that there is a significant association between type 2 diabetes and the overall survival rate of lung cancer patients … cancer patients with type 2 diabetes do not survive as long as cancer patients who don’t have diabetes.
For diabetics, this is very unfortunate … lung cancer is the most common form of cancer in the world and the fourth most common cause of death in the Western World.
How tobacco smoke damages your body
A study by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, and the Welcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, published in November 2016 shows that tobacco smoke … even if you inhale it as second-hand smoke … can mess up your health big-time by causing mutations that lead to cancer.
Mutations are changes in the sequence of DNA. Mutations occurring in genes may prevent them from working properly, which can result in disease. These changes occur naturally at a slow rate, but they can also be induced by radiation and some chemicals such as those found in smoke.
Tobacco smoke damages the DNA in organs, such as the lungs, larynx and mouth, that are directly exposed to the smoke. This causes mutations in their cells. It also speeds up the molecular clocks of these cells, ie the natural rate at which these cells mutate.
The smoke also finds its way to organs not directly exposed to it, such as the bladder, kidneys and pancreas, and speeds up their mutational cellular clocks, ie makes them mutate much faster than usual.
Though this damage is permanent, quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke can improve your health and quality of life.
What happens when you quit smoking
As soon as you stop smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure will begin to go down and your airways and lungs will start to work better.
Staying clear of tobacco smoke gives you body a chance to heal itself … in some cases the damage to the lungs is reversed (to an extent at least).
You can support this healing process by undertaking regular aerobic exercises and by eating foods that help to mitigate the risk of developing lung cancer.
A study published in Frontiers of Oncology in February 2017 found that fruits and vegetables high in carotenoids (the pigments that give vegetables their red, orange and yellow colours) and vitamin C may help mitigate the risks of lung cancer.
The research showed that people who had medium to high weekly intakes of fruits and vegetables, including cruciferous vegetables, carrots and citrus fruits as well as tomatoes, have a reduced risk of developing lung cancer.
How carotenoids help protect against cancer
Beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein are different varieties of carotenoids. They act as antioxidants with strong cancer-fighting properties. Antioxidants protect cells from free radicals, substances that work to destroy cell membranes and DNA.
Smokers tend to have higher concentrations of free radicals in their blood due to the chemicals they inhale. Studies have confirmed that antioxidants lower the risk of lung cancer for smokers. Studies have also suggested that carotenoids may help prevent skin, breast, and prostate cancer. Some carotenoids are also converted to vitamin A, which is necessary for cell growth and healthy vision.
Carotenoids are found in nearly all brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. The following foods have large quantities of beta-carotene (the carotenoids that converts into vitamin A).
|Apricots, 1 cup raw||1,635|
|Broccoli, 1 cup raw||807|
|Brussels sprouts, 1 cup cooked||669|
|Cantaloupe, 1/8 melon||1,325|
|Carrot, 1 large||15,503|
|Guava, 1 cup raw||750|
|Kale, 1 cup raw||3,577|
|Mango, 1 cup raw||3,851|
|Pumpkin, 1 cup raw||31,908|
|Red bell pepper, 1 cup raw||2,840|
|Spinach, 1 cup raw||1,196|
|Sweet potato, 1 cup raw||26,184|
|Tomato, 1 cup raw||446|
|Watermelon, 1/16 melon||634|
As you can see, raw pumpkin and raw sweet potato deliver the most beta-carotene. But you will probably find raw carrot to be the most edible.
Tips for increasing carotenoids in your diet
- Be creative! The more colourful your meal is, the more likely it is to have an abundance of carotenoids, as well as other healthy nutrients.
- Chop a bag of raw baby carrots into long thin sticks and keep them to hand—the perfect snack. Try them plain or dipped in hummus or fat-free vinaigrette.
- Limit the storage time of fruits and vegetables by buying them in small batches. Once plants containing carotenoids are harvested, their active antioxidants begin losing their potency. The freshest sources are farmer’s markets.
- Don’t overcook vegetables. While you get substantial amounts of carotenoids in cooked vegetables, you will definitely get much more if you enjoy them raw or al dente. However, there are a few exceptions. Carrots, for example, actually release more of their carotenoids if you cook them; puréeing them has a similar effect.
Vitamin C and other micro-nutrients
Vitamin C also works as an antioxidant, blocking some of the damage that can be caused by free radicals.
While almost all fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit and vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and tomatoes are the richest in that nutrient.
As well as carotenoids and vitamin C, you need to need to ingest plenty of vitamin E (found in nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables) and flavonoids (a large class of plant pigments found in apples, onions, parsley, berries and citrus fruits).
Magnesium is a dietary mineral that can improve lung health. The best places to find it is in green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts.
In sum, to aid respiratory health, you need to follow a healthy, balanced diet, rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
As well as improving the health of your lungs, a diet rich in carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E and magnesium will also benefit your heart and other organs.
But you should avoid foods containing nitrates (eg, bacon, hot dogs, delicatessen meats and so on) as these have been shown to have the potential to damage your lungs and other organs.
If you follow the sort of diet outlined above, the foods you eat will be rich in antioxidants that help beat cancer. You can supplement them with garlic, onions, sage and astragalus.
Health benefits of onions and garlic
Garlic and onions reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol and fight infection. Thus they are heart healthy. They are also good for the lungs.
Onions and garlic are members of the Allium family of vegetables. These edible bulbs all contain organosulphur compounds (which give them their strong odours) and they have antioxidant properties that make them protective against cancer and heart disease.
The Allium vegetables with the strongest antioxidant properties are onions, shallots, leeks, scallions, garlic, scapes (the flower buds of the garlic plant), green (young) garlic and chives.
The American Institute of Cancer Research says that chemical compounds inside Allium vegetables, such as onions and garlic, can slow or stop cancer cells from proliferating in places such as the lungs, colon, oesophagus and breasts.
The research institute also says that the compounds that onions and garlic contain can also reduce the rate at which cancer tumours grow, or even stop tumour growth altogether. Garlic, in particular, may be especially effective against gastric and colorectal cancer according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
As well as helping ward-off cancer, both onions and garlic might help combat infections and heart disease. In the November 2002 issue of Phytotherapy Research, it was reported that onions can reduce the symptoms of bronchitis and the common cold and fight harmful bacteria. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, garlic has antibacterial and antifungal properties that should strengthen your immune system overall.
Consuming onions and garlic also might help prevent heart disease. Onions are rich in flavonoids (powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties) that boost your immune system and protect you from heart disease. They may also decrease your risk of blood clots, help keep your arteries flexible and help reduce your blood pressure according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
As you can see, adding onions and garlic to your diet is a smart thing to do. These allium vegetables are the richest sources of healthy sulphur compounds. But you should eat them regularly rather than taking supplements. Pills are known to contain widely varying amounts of the healthy compounds.
Onions and garlic have complementary tastes, so you might eat them together in the same meals. You can also add onions to stir fry dishes and use them to flavour soups, salads and dips.
The Linus Pauling Institute recommends eating garlic cloves raw or crushing or chopping the cloves before cooking to help them retain their beneficial compounds during the cooking process.
Tobacco smoke … whether ingested directly through smoking cigarettes or indirectly from passive smoking … causes horrendous damage to your lungs and dramatically increases your risk of lung cancer. Being diabetic probably increases that risk much more and reduces your overall survival rate significantly.
Your best way to reduce the risk of lung cancer is to stop smoking and avoid passive smoking. You should also up your diet so it includes red, orange and yellow vegetables and fruits, along with herbs, roots and whole produce.