A review of recent trials published in May this yearconcluded that the dominant fats in margarine increase our risk of developingbreast cancer. But the review (and the studies it discusses) has beencomprehensively ignored by the Health Authorities. Is their obsession withpushing margarine for heart health clouding their vision?
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Australian women.One in nine women will develop the disease in their lifetime.
We are getting very good at detecting and treating thecancer (88 per cent of new cases survive five years or more). But there are nosigns of any reduction in the numbers of women developing the disease in thefirst place. In the last 30 years the incidence has increaseddramatically.
An Australian woman in 2012 is almost 50% more likely to developbreast cancer than her mother was in 1982. If the woman lives in the ACT, iswhite and is affluent, her risk is even higher.
Forty new cases will be diagnosed today. Forty women willdiscover they have breast cancer today that thought they were well yesterday. Andtomorrow another 40 will join the list. And another 40 the day after that. Evenmore disturbingly three of those women every day will be under 40.
Despite its enormous impact, we know almost nothing aboutwhat causes the disease. The best the expertscan tell us so far is what many would regard as the bleedin obvious - that weare more at risk if we are female, have relatives that have had the disease (orother cancers) or have previously had the disease (or other cancers) ourselves.
There is nothing in the official advice about the risksassociated with polyunsaturated fat consumption. But researchers have knownthat there is a strong link between high polyunsaturated fat, seed oils(man-made oils extracted from grains and seeds such as canola, sunflower,grape-seed and ricebran) and cancer for more than 40 years.
TheVeterans Trial, completed in 1971, was conducted with a population of 846Californian military veterans randomly assigned to two different kitchens. Onekitchen replaced all animal-fat products with corn oil for the eight-yearduration of the study. The other kitchen kept on serving a normalhigh-animal-fat diet.The purpose of the trial was to determine whether animal fatcaused heart disease, but it drew a blank on that front. Heart-disease-relatedevents were slightly less than expected in both groups, and not significantlydifferent from each other. But the researchers noticed something of far moreconcern. There was the dramatic difference in cancer deaths between the twogroups. The incidence of fatal cancers in the corn-oil group was nearly doublethat of the normal-diet group by the end of the trial.
Ethical approval for more trials on humans was in shortsupply after that study saw the light of day. But rat studiesperformed in the 1970s and 1980s consistently noted that mammary (breast)cancer was formed more often in rats fed corn oil (high in polyunsaturatedfats) than in those fed coconut oil (high in saturated fats). And a trulydisturbing studypublished in 1997 showed that feeding the rat equivalent of a breastfeedingmother a diet high in polyunsaturated fat (43 per cent corn oil) doubled therate of mammary cancer in her daughters, caused cancers to appear among themearlier and caused earlier onset of puberty.
In 1996, Swedish researchers decided it was time for a humanstudy to provide some hard data on breast cancer. Scientists from theKarolinska Institute recruited 63,870 women aged 40?76 and monitored their dietand the occurrence of breast cancer for an average of 4.2 years. The dietaryquestionnaires used in the study enabled the researchers to determine exactlyhow much saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat the women wereconsuming.
They found noassociation between the total fat or saturated-fat (the dominant fat in animalfats) intake and a woman?s risk of developing breast cancer.Monounsaturated-fat (the dominant fat in Olive Oil) consumption reduced therisk of breast cancer by 20 per cent but polyunsaturated-fat consumption did exactlythe opposite. Just as the rat studies had predicted, the women consuming themost polyunsaturated fat were 20 per cent more likely to develop breast cancerthan the women consuming the least.
Since that study, further human studies have found significantassociations between dietary polyunsaturated fat consumption (in particular theomega-6 fats which dominate seed oils) and the risk of developing breastcancer. A review of the studies conducted by the Université Joseph Fourier (Grenoble,France) and published in May this year concludes?there are several recent and concordant studies that strongly suggest thatdietary omega-6 [polyunsaturated fats] ? increase the risk of breast cancers.?
Meanwhile the Australian Heart Foundation is busily telling ?Mums? that theyshould be replacing butter with margarine. They are doing this because for thelast 30 years they have been telling people that plant fats reduce the risk ofheart disease.
Unfortunately there is no evidence that this is true. Indeedit is likely that the omega-6 fats in margarine significantly increasethe risk of heart disease and death. Even more unfortunately the margarine theywant all our mums to eat is made from the very oils the French reviewconcluded ?increase the risk of breast cancer.?
This evidence is compelling. It demands critical discussion.It demands widespread publication. And it demands public warnings. But none ofthis is happening. The folks charged with safeguarding our safety areasleep at the wheel (I?m being generous). And the folks with a buck to makefrom selling us seed oils appear to be running the show.
We are not talking about a rare disease afflicting tropicalfish. Breast cancer is a blight upon the community. There is not one person whowill not be personally affected by the tragedy of this very modern epidemic.
Our mothers, sisters and daughters (and even very occasionallyour men folk) deserve better. Somebody wake the watchdogs ? please. And whileyou wait for them to stir, stop eating seed oils.
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