Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: An Environmental Scan

Table of Contents

4.5 Nutritional Science

There is little doubt overall that it is possible to impact both the development and treatment of cancer through diet and nutrition. Despite the World Health Organization stating approximately 30% of cancers in the developing world and near 20% among developing nations is accounted for by some form of dietary factors, we are a long way from instituting the benefits of nutritional science into mainstream allopathic medicine or research.

Just recently, the Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 at the United States Department of Agriculture has recently released an update, which is done every 5 years and recommended a more plant-based diet for all Americans. The major issue to address in this revision is the number of Americans, who are currently overweight or obese along with under-nourishment, stating that too many Americans across all age gradients and both sexes need more vegetables, fruit, fiber and low-fat dairy products, citing a move toward a more plant-based diet will reduce obesity while also decreasing the incidence of chronic disease. In particular cardiovascular disease, some cancers and osteoporosis are listed as particular areas that could realize improved outcomes with a plant-based diet (USAD 2010). Therefore, change is beginning in the right direction but there remains a great deal of work to do.

One of the major issues facing the advancement of nutritional science into mainstream research surrounds the issue of funding and resource allocation. The National Institute of Health (NIH) is comprised of over 20 specific institutes and surprisingly there is no single institute dedicated to nutritional science. In terms of financial resources, less than 5% of all funding in both the heart and cancer areas of the NIH focuses on diet and nutrition. When resources are dedicated in this area, the vast majority examine specific nutrients in isolation, which likely leads to serious methodological problems when attempting to discern the true nature of the relationship between overall health and diet (Campbell 2010). In the end, resources and specifically financial dollars dedicated to examining nutritional science is desperately needed. In conjunction with funding, the area requires investigators to move away from hypotheses focused on isolated aspects of nutrition, in other words individual nutrients and begin to advance the knowledge of the true relationships concerning nutrition by viewing nutrition from a more comprehensive approach, which builds on the work of Dr. Campbell and other researchers who have begun to unravel the impact diet can have on not only cancer but chronic disease as a whole. Furthermore, instituting nutritional science into Western medical training is long overdue. We must put forth the information about diet to new and upcoming physicians so they are better able to disseminate the benefits of diet to patients. It is not enough to lump diet into the modifiable risk factor group, for example simply suggest to patients they reduce their overall fat intake, we must better understand exactly what components of diet are required and to what degree it is necessary to omit certain substances in order to offset the damage being done by typical Western diets.