How Well Do Cancer Survivors Eat?

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Childhood cancer survivors have a high risk of premature death and serious illness because of chronic health conditions. According to the results of a study from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, there might be a diet link. The Healthy Eating Index was used to assess dietary intakes in 22 survivors of pediatric lymphoma, This information was compared to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Dietary data were collected using repeated 24-hour dietary recalls during a one-year period, which then were averaged to estimate habitual intake. Results showed that cancer survivors scored only 52.7 points out of the optimal 100 points on the Health Eating Index. The longer people had been cancer-free, the more poorly they ate. Survivors’ diets were especially low in green vegetables, legumes, total vegetables, and whole fruits. None of the survivors met guidelines for fiber and potassium intakes. Survivors averaged only 32% of their vitamin D needs, 50% of their potassium needs, 63% of their fiber needs, and 85% of their calcium needs, but they consumed excessive amounts of saturated fat and sodium. These poor dietary habits likely contribute to their higher rate of premature death and disease.

Survivors of non-Hodgkin lymphoma fare better if they follow healthy lifestyle habits, such as eating well, maintaining a fit weight, exercising daily, and not smoking, state researchers at Duke Cancer Institute. Unfortunately, many survivors are not meeting these guidelines and pay the price with compromised well-being and longevity.

Zhang F, Saltzman E, Kelly M, et al: Comparison of childhood cancer survivors nutritional intake with US dietary guidelines. Pediatric Blood & Cancer 2015;March 24th.

Spector D, Noonan D, Mayer D, et al: Are lifestyle behavioral factors associated with health-related quality of life in long-term survivors of non-Hodgkin lymphoma? Cancer 2015;June 2nd.

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