Is Food For Thought Health Food?

Coffee has been linked to a reduced risk of skin cancer – specifically, basal cell carcinoma. It’s the most common type of skin cancer, with nearly 1 million new, U.S. cases diagnosed yearly. A study presented to the American Association for Cancer Research analyzed data from 112,897 people who were followed over 23 years. Women who drank more than 3 cups of caffeinated coffee daily were 20% less likely to develop basal cell carcinoma than women who drank less than 1 cup monthly. Men were 9% less likely. When it comes to drinking coffee, it’s healthy to be “in your cups”.

However, drinking licorice-flavored coffee might not be a good idea for people over age 40. According to the Food and Drug Administration, black licorice contains glycyrrhizin, a chemical that can trigger a dangerous drop in potassium. When potassium is low, heart rhythms fluctuate and blood pressure can rise causing swelling, lethargy and even congestive heart failure. It seems eating 2 ounces daily for 2 weeks could result in hospitalization for heart arrhythmia. For people with high blood pressure, heart disease or kidney disease, as little as .18 ounce daily could cause health problems. Maybe licorice should be “blacklisted”.

Drinking alcohol is on the shouldn’t list for women because it increases the risk of breast cancer. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at the drinking habits of more than 100,000 nurses. For those who had a drink daily the cancer risk increased from 2.8% to 3.5%. However, the risk is associated with longstanding habits – not drinking a lot over a few weeks or months. Also, there was no increased risk when less than 3 drinks were consumed weekly. Considering there’s evidence moderate drinking protects against heart disease, here’s less than 3 cheers weekly to our health!

Good health is more likely with a high-fiber diet. Fiber from whole grains has been linked to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. After analyzing 25 studies including nearly 2 million people, researchers found 90 grams (three and one-quarter ounces) of whole grains daily was associated with a 20% lower risk of colorectal cancer. Whole grains move food more quickly through the colon, reducing the colon’s toxic exposure. Because high-fiber diets have also been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and being overweight, perhaps we should think of whole grains as “whole life insurance”.

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