Diet and Optimum Health 2013

Whole-Food Approaches to Disease Prevention

The Linus Pauling Institute invites scientific colleagues from around the world, every alternate year, to our Diet and Optimum Health conference, to discuss research on dietary and lifestyle approaches to improving human health and preventing and treating disease.

Diet and Optimum Health 2013 included a day of sharing with the public a plethora of scientifically based findings and recommendations about whole-food approaches to disease prevention.

We offer here one of the series of summaries of the four public presentations.

Cynthia A. Thomson, Ph.D., University of Arizona Cancer CenterThomson


Thomson described the role of diet in breast cancer prevention and also survivorship.  Acknowledging popular confusion because “not all breast cancers are alike,” she noted that, for example, post- vs. pre-menopausal cancers may respond differently to prevention and treatment modes.


Based on a review of the scientific literature, Thomson’s recommendations for optimal dietary patterns to reduce breast cancer risk include:


Eat less to get more – Avoid or have smaller portions of  “energy-dense” foods, such as many snacks, processed foods, and desserts.  She noted that overweight and obesity are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.


Eat nutrient-dense foods – Choose foods lower in calories and higher in nutrients.


Eat less fat – And yet a little fat with each meal, Thomson said, helps to promote satiety.  She promoted nuts and seeds, plus oils (unsaturated fats) vs. solid (saturated) fats.


Limit Alcohol – Thomson cited studies suggesting that even a little alcohol may be associated with an increased risk for breast cancer. Binge drinking may be more problematic than spreading out consumption, she said, and some types of alcohol may be more benign than others in terms of breast cancer.


Eat vegetables and some may make for better choices.  She “put in a plug” for green, leafy and cruciferous vegetables, but also advocated a “rainbow” variety of vegetables and fruits.


Don’t forget the spices – Many current research projects are suggesting the beneficial compounds in turmeric and other spices, Thomson said.


Eat a variety of grains – Grains have a protective impact on circulating hormone levels.


Thomson included a nod to the benefits of exercise. On self-monitoring one’s diet, she noted that the app “SuperTracker” has proved of value. While she promotes “food first,” she acknowledged that dietary supplements may be important for some people. She recommended a book from the American Cancer Society: “Complete Guide to Nutrition for Cancer Survivors.”


Because cancer risk is associated with family history, Thomson’s final note was “feed your children well.”



A recording of Dr. Thomson’s presentation (Public Session 1), as well as the other Whole-Food Approaches to Disease Prevention  presentations, are available for viewing online.


Thank you for referring to the Linus Pauling Institute as a source  for scientifically accurate information regarding the roles of vitamins, minerals, other nutrients, dietary phytochemicals , and some foods and beverages in preventing disease and promoting health. Link to the  Micronutrient Information Center, where you can also sign up for LPI’s free, semi-annual Research Newsletter and occasional, timely updates.


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