Study shows animal fats linked to pancreatic cancer
July 15, 2009
New research shows that people who eat a high-fat diet may be more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, especially if their dietary fat comes from animal foods, such as meat and dairy products. That finding appears in the July 15 edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
“Our study demonstrated a positive association between dietary intake of total fat, particularly fat from animal sources,” said researcher Rachael Stolzenberg-Solomon, PhD, RD. “The strongest associations we observed were from meat and dairy products.”
Pancreatic cancer is fatal in 95 per cent of cases.
The authors used data collected by the National Institutes of Health-AARP Health Study to analyze the diets of 500,000 people who had completed food frequency questionnaires in 1995 and 1996. Participants were then followed for an average of six years to track a number of health issues, including pancreatic cancer. Of those sampled, 1,337 were diagnosed with the cancer – 865 men and 472 women.
The study adds to a body of research that blames excessive red meat consumption for a number of health problems, including higher rates of heart disease, macular degeneration, various cancers and premature death. On the flip side, diets high in fruit, vegetables and fibre that also limit red meat consumption, such as the Mediterranean diet, have been linked with longer life and lower rates of heart disease.
The researchers found that men with the highest consumption levels of total fat had a 53 per cent higher rate of pancreatic cancer than those with the lowest total fat consumption, and women had a 23 per cent higher relative rate. For saturated fat, participants with the highest consumption levels had a 36 per cent higher rate of the cancer than those who consumed low levels.
They added: “We did not observe any consistent association with polyunsaturated or fat from plant food sources. Altogether, these results suggest a role for animal fat in pancreatic carcinogenesis.”
The reason for this could be connected to the role the pancreas plays in excreting enzymes that digest fat, they suggested. The authors also noted that studies have linked saturated fat consumption with insulin resistance, and that diabetes and insulin resistance are risk factors for pancreatic cancer.
The American Cancer Society provided a statement about the study:
“This study is large and well designed, and provides important evidence that a diet high in animal fat may increase risk of one of the leading causes of cancer death. While further confirmatory research about animal fat and pancreatic cancer is still needed, results of this study support the American Cancer Society’s recommendations to limit red meat and emphasize plant foods to help reduce risk of a variety of cancer,” says Eric Jacobs, PhD, strategic director of pharmacoepidemiology at the American Cancer Society.
Source: Journal of the National Cancer Institute
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