Citing an article in the "China Daily," rates of breast cancer in Shanghai have increased by 31 percent in the last 10 years, to a current rate of 55 per 100,000 women. Rates in Beijing have increased by 23 percent over the same period, up to 45 per 100,000.
Concurrently, the number of obese Chinese has reached 60 million. While that is less than five percent of the population (compared with 30 percent in the United States), it is nevertheless equivalent to the entire population of France.
"Unhealthy lifestyles are mostly to blame for the growing numbers," explained Qiao Youlin of the Cancer Institute and Hospital of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.
Among the lifestyle factors that Qiao cited are poor diets, increasing pollution, and stress. The Chinese diet has changed dramatically in the past few years, as people have increasingly adopted the high-fat, high-junk food diet common in the West and begun rejecting the traditional high-nutrient diet rich in vegetables, grains and soy.
At the same time, China's rapid industrialization has led to a new threat of environmental pollution. Birth defects in coal mining areas of the country have also skyrocketed in recent years, according to a report by the Xinhua News Agency. The rate of birth defects in China increased by almost 50 percent between 2001 and 2006, up to 145.5 defects per 10,000 births, or nearly 1.5 percent. But according to Xinhua, the rate is substantially higher in the coal mining regions of Shanxi province.
The most common varieties of cancer in China are breast and cervical cancer.
The message to Americans is clear: our diets, our stress, and our environment are killing us. While we may not be able to do much about work or family stress or our environment, we can at least begin eating more whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and less of the calorie-rich, nutrient-depleted, highly processed junk foods. Additionally, since Westernized farming methods are partly responsible for a toxic environment, and since the same methods result in crops that are nutrient deficient, it is imperative that we supplement the diet with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that make up for what is lacking in our diets.
An article published in the November 1995 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association entitled, How Phytochemicals Help Fight Disease, stated, “Detailed studies at the biochemical and even molecular level are providing new information about the role phytochemicals, the active compounds in dietary fruits and vegetables, play in preventing, and sometimes treating malignant disease.” The article went on to quote Dr. Pamela Crowell of Indiana University’s School of Medicine, who said, “It would be impossible to achieve therapeutic levels [of phytonutrients] by altering the diet alone. For example, limonene is present only in orange peel, not in the rest of the fruit or juice. We worked out how many oranges you would have to eat [daily] in order to get the needed therapeutic levels of limonene. The answer came out to be about 400.”
The conclusion? Eat right, yes. But supplement the diet with phytochemicals as added protection.
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