Stomach cancer was the top cancer killer of Americans for the first half of the 20th century. Its incidence started to decline rapidly in the 1940s due to the increased reliance on refrigerators rather than salting, pickling and smoking to preserve foods. Today stomach cancer still kills nearly 15,000 Americans each year. In the northern part of Japan, people eat a lot of salty foods and stomach cancer remains the top cancer killer in Japan.
A new study examined the eating, smoking and drinking habits of about 40,000 middle-aged people in Japan. During 11 years of follow up, researchers determined what diet and lifestyle factors correlated with the development of stomach cancer. For Japanese men, those who ate the most salt doubled their risk of developing stomach cancer. For women the stomach cancer rate was 54% higher among those who ate the most salt compared to those who ate the least.1 Of course, using a diet questionnaire to assess dietary salt intake is not very precise. Also the variability in salt intake between the top 20% and bottom 20% of Japanese men and women is not that great. What if everyone smoked between 1 and 2 packs of cigarettes a day and you wanted to see if the amount of cigarettes smoked daily increased the risk of getting lung cancer over 11 years? Perhaps the risk would be twice as high in the 2-packs-a-day smokers vs. the 1-pack-a-day smokers. This means that the rather strong correlation between the intake of salt and the development of stomach cancer in this study probably grossly underestimates the true role of consuming salty food in the promotion of stomach cancer.
To avoid stomach cancer, it is important to limit your intake of salty foods and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Ideally, those older Americans with atrophic gastritis should avoid all highly salted, pickled and smoked foods.
By James J. Kenney, PhD, RD, LD, FACN.
1. Tsugane S, Sasazuki S, Kobayashi M, Sasaki S. Br J Cancer 2004;90:128-34
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world-famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. After a decade in food service for Hyatt Hotels, Judy launched Food and Health Communications to focus on flavor and health. She graduated with Summa Cum Laude distinction from Johnson and Wales University with a BS in Culinary Art, holds a master’s degree in Food Business from the Culinary Institute of America, 2 art certificates from UC Berkeley Extension, and runs a food photography studio where her love is creating fun recipes.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science and Dietary Guidelines to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.