29 January 2022
Cervical cancer is a major cause of mortality in women across the world and the second most common malignancy among Indian women. Several factors such as age, obesity, unsafe sex, indulging in tobacco-related products, complicated pregnancies, use of oral contraceptives, immunosuppressant drugs and an unhealthy diet increase the risk of developing cervical cancer. Research has shown that diet invariably affects the body and has the potential to develop some diseases.
Dr Sonia Gandhi, Head, Department of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, Fortis Hospital Mohali, explains the significance of nutrition and eating a wholesome diet to keep cervical cancer at bay.
Role of diet & nutrition
Incidence of cervical cancer linked to diet have been higher in advanced countries compared to the developing ones. The most important role of diet/nutrition in relation to cervical cancer is prophylaxis and counter-measures against Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The important role of antioxidant vitamins in preventing the development of cervical cancer has received much attention. Inflammatory processes caused by HIV infection cause extensive damage to DNA proteins. Vitamins such as A, C, D and E can inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells and prevent DNA damage. High intake of red and processed meats, snacks having excess of saturated, trans or unhealthy fat, refined grains, excess of added sugars and salt are associated with a high risk of HPV infection.
What to eat & what to avoid
To lower the risk of HPV infection, the diet should include wholegrains, legumes, low-fat dairy products especially curd, fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish and a high-ratio of unsaturated to saturated fats. Higher intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with a 54% reduction in the risk of contracting an HPV infection. Consume nutritious plant-based foods that help in the fight against cancer.
Include antioxidants, flavonoids, folic acid, lycopene and carotenoids, which are found mostly in fruits and vegetables, in your diet. Anti-inflammatory foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, soluble fiber, and probiotics are key components to prevent the progression of HPV infection to cervical cancer.
How is the diet recommended?
The diet is fixed as per the individual needs of the patient based on several parameters such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, renal insufficiency or other ailments.Therefore, a well-balanced and primarily plant-based diet plays a major role in preventing cervical cancers. One should avoid processed foods and over-the-counter diet supplements or products without prescription.
Calories consumed and distribution
Calories: 20-30kcal/kg body weight
Proteins: 20-30% of total calories
Fats: 30-40% of total calories
Carbohydrates: 40-50% of total calories