I mean. I’m not sure there’s much more to say on this topic other than the headline, but I’m going to expand anyway.
You might have heard the news last week that crispy potatoes, over browned bread and other overcooked starchy foods pose a cancer risk. Add these to the ever growing list of other foods that cause cancer – sugar, red meat, processed meat (THAT MEANS BACON), refined white flour, Nutella and so on and so forth – it looks like we’ll soon be eating spinach leaves and tofu, until it’s decreed that they too, come with a risk of developing malignant tumours. If we’re not feeling guilty for eating a slice of cake because of the impact it will have on our waistlines, we’re stressing about carcinogens, hydrogenated oils and now acrylamide (word of the week) and whether they’ll have a detrimental impact on our lives or make us come out in a tumour.
The thing is – everything has the possibility to be detrimental to one’s health if consumed in excess, but it seems we’re living in a perpetual state of fear when it comes to whether our diet will cause cancer. As a person who is currently living with the very real prospect of getting cancer again at some point in the future, having already had it the once, I do not have the time, energy or inclination to start eradicating things from my diet because there’s a chance (and usually a very flimsy chance) they might cause cancer.
Whatever happened to enjoying good food without being terrified of the possible, minute risk that it might take a year or so off our lives? What ever happened to embracing a balanced diet with a little indulgence here and there? Eating food should be joyful – something to be savoured and appreciated – not something to be feared or berated for. It is a privilege to live in a country where we can savour and appreciate the food we are eating.
There’s so much fear mongering around diet – particularly diet and cancer – that it’s becoming suffocating. I think it’s time we stop listening to absolutely everything we’re being told about eating food and relearn that a little of a good thing probably isn’t all that bad.
As Cancer Research pointed out in a recent blog, it’s too soon to decry slightly browned bread and the crispy roasties you like to have alongside your Sunday roast (I bloody love a roast potato). The scientific findings are patchy at best, but you’d think from the coverage in the media that a single browned spud will immediately take three years off your life. The research into acrylamide (carried out on animals) shows that it has the potential to damage the DNA inside cells, which in turn, links it to cancer. But when researchers looked into the links between acrylamide and cancer in people, actual human people who are made up of the same bits and pieces as you and me, there isn’t a clear and consistent link between this chemical and an increased risk of cancer. The evidence for these latest claims is, what Cancer Research described as “weak and inconsistent”.
Now, I love food. I’ve come a long way from the days when I would only eat yellow rice (true story – the parents ended up adding food colouring to white rice, clever things). I like nothing better than cooking up a delicious feast for my loved ones or hanging out with my friends in a gorgeous restaurant and indulging in a five course tasting menu. I’d MUCH rather eat an amazing meal with CDB than go out and drink away £60 on a boozy night out. But I appreciate the importance of having a balanced diet and I know that there are ample, proven studies that show that having a balanced diet is a sure fire way to reduce your cancer risk.
So I’m not saying that we should all just live on potatoes and white bread because to hell with it. I’m saying we need to realign ourselves with a love of food. We need to look after ourselves, but not to the extent that we’re chopping things out of our diet on the basis of a media outcry that is based in loose facts.
We should be asking questions every time the media reports something like this. I simply cannot accept a ban on roast potatoes without hard evidence. We know that the main things that affect cancer rates are smoking, drinking excessively and being overweight, so how’s about we concentrate on those things, enjoy a little of what we fancy and make an effort to go for a long walk every now and again.
And I know one thing for certain. If eating crispy roast potatoes is wrong, I don’t wanna be right. If they cause cancer, I’ll take the risk. After all, life is for living, not for fearing the future. And I say that as a breast cancer survivor.