Meat and Toxic Buildup, Soba Noodles, and B12 for Dementia

Q: Is it true that avoiding meat can lower cancer risk by avoiding “toxic buildup” and freeing more enzymes to attack cancer cells?
Q: What are soba noodles? Are they really more nutritious than other pasta?
Q: Does evidence support vitamin B12 to treat dementia?


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

Q: Is it true that avoiding meat can lower cancer risk by avoiding “toxic buildup” and freeing more enzymes to attack cancer cells?
A: Limiting red meat to no more than three ounces a day and limiting all meat, fish and poultry to no more than one-third of your plate are two of the steps The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends to lower cancer risk. But the reasons you describe have nothing to do with those recommendations. When part of a balanced diet, modest portions of animal foods are plenty to meet our protein and other nutrient needs. By limiting animal foods to no more than a third of our plate, we have room for larger portions of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans without sending total calorie consumption too high. Substantial portions of these plant foods are important to get optimal amounts of their protective nutrients, fiber and natural compounds that act together to prevent cancer. High amounts of red meat have been linked to increased risk of colon cancer; researchers aren’t sure whether the risk relates to a certain type of iron in meat (heme iron) or other compounds. Digestive enzymes are not considered part of the picture, however. Protein-digesting enzymes reside in the gut, so they are not available to attack cancer cells throughout the body. Other enzymes in the body help prevent cancer formation when stimulated by compounds in vegetables, fruits, whole grain and beans.

Q: What are soba noodles? Are they really more nutritious than other pasta?
A: Japanese soba noodles, traditionally served either hot in broth or cold in a dipping sauce, are made from a blend of wheat and buckwheat flours. Although some reports claim they are a “powerhouse of protein,” a one-cup portion has only 5.8 grams of protein. That’s slightly less than a cup of regular cooked spaghetti or an ounce of chicken. In equal volumes, soba noodles are lower in carbohydrate and calories than traditional pasta. Although it is not a true grain, the soba noodles’ buckwheat is often grouped with whole grains because its intact outer layer keeps fiber and nutrient levels high, similar to whole wheat. It even contains natural phytochemicals that may help inhibit the development of cancer and heart disease. Soba noodles are a nutritious way to add interesting variety to your meals, but don’t count on them as some sort of miracle food.

Q: Does evidence support vitamin B12 to treat dementia?
A: Not if the dementia has been going on for several years. Lack of vitamin B12 is recognized as one factor that may lead to dementia including mild disorientation, memory loss, and language difficulties and perhaps more severe forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s. Research is inconclusive as to whether a low B12 level is a cause or a result of Alzheimer’s. B12 is needed for reactions involved in producing neurotransmitters and for healthy nerve function. However, while meeting B12 needs may help prevent dementia, there is no evidence that adding extra B12 when there was no deficiency offers any benefit. One study suggests there may be a limited window of opportunity of about a year from the onset of symptoms during which restoring B12 status can resolve dementia related to lack of the vitamin.

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

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