Diet and Pancreatic Cancer, Beef Grading Levels, and Asparagus

Q: Does diet influence risk of pancreatic cancer?
Q: Do the grading levels on beef like “Prime” or “Choice” tell us anything about the meat’s nutritional value?
Q: Does asparagus have compounds that help protect us from cancer?


Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Does diet influence risk of pancreatic cancer?
A: Researchers note that there is a convincing link between excess body fat – particularly fat around the waist – and an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. But we need more research about the role of particular food choices and their effect on risk. Although studies are inconsistent, foods that may offer a protective effect include: fruits (which supply vitamin C and other antioxidant phytochemicals to protect our cells’ DNA) and foods that supply folate (a B vitamin needed to produce and repair DNA). Important sources of folate include green leafy vegetables and dried beans. Limited evidence also suggests that getting regular physical activity and limiting intake of red meat – both steps that clearly lower risk of colon cancer – may also help protect against pancreatic cancer. In addition, smoking also increases the risk of pancreatic cancers. According to recent statistics those who smoke are at least twice as likely to develop pancreatic cancer than nonsmokers, so always avoid tobacco.

Q: Do the grading levels on beef like “Prime” or “Choice” tell us anything about the meat’s nutritional value?
A: These meat grades, assigned by inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), rates beef for its anticipated tenderness and juiciness based on the animal’s age and the amount of fat marbled throughout the meat. Prime beef has the most fat marbling, making it the most tender, but also the least desirable nutritionally. Most beef you see in the grocery store is Choice, which has moderate amounts of fat marbling, but is still quite tender. Select is the healthiest choice because it has the least fat marbling, but that makes it less tender. Choosing Select beef can pay off, however, since it is not only the leanest, but also the least expensive. The trick is to cook the meat to a safe degree of doneness, but avoid overcooking it, which can make it dry and tough. In addition to choosing a grade of meat with less marbling, you can also select a cut of beef that is naturally leaner. Beef cuts like the loin, sirloin or round all tend to be leaner than meat from the ribs or brisket. To further reduce the fat content of beef, be sure to carefully trim off all visible fat around the exterior prior to cooking. And always remember: To reduce your cancer risk, limit your consumption of red meat to no more than 18 ounces per week.

Q: Does asparagus have compounds that help protect us from cancer?
A: Asparagus is an excellent source of folate, a B vitamin necessary to produce and repair our DNA. According to a major international report on diet and cancer prevention released by the American Institute for Cancer Research, foods high in folate may lower risk of cancers of the colon, pancreas and esophagus. Asparagus also provides vitamin C and beta-carotene, two compounds that may offer additional cancer protection. In addition, you’ll find potassium, which helps control blood pressure, and vitamin B-6, needed for a properly functioning immune system and production of red blood cells. Note, however, that many of these nutrients are water-soluble. To preserve the nutritional value, don’t cook asparagus in a big pot of boiling water. For optimum nutrition and taste, bake, grill or lightly steam your asparagus.

Reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Cancer Research www.aicr.org

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  • Kunnika

    Yup, it’s a 33% irasecne. The confusion, though, is not surprising. If you went from 4 months to three months, it would be a 25% decrease. So a 25% decrease following by a 33% irasecne gets you right back where you started, mathematically. wth?