Monday, 9 March 2009

Scary stuff, eh?

This image has been made available by Purdue University, with the official caption:

Researchers at Purdue have precisely measured the impact of a high-fat diet on the spread of cancer, finding that excessive dietary fat caused a 300 percent increase in metastasizing tumor cells in laboratory animals. Here, lipid-rich cancer cells (the two round objects) attach to collagen fibrils, simultaneously visualized using coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering and sum frequency generation imaging. Cancer cells attach to collagen before spreading to organs in the body. (Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, Purdue University)

As I said, scary stuff. So a high-fat diet causes a 300% increase in metastasising tumour cells in mice? The official press release continues:

"These findings demonstrate that an increase in lipids leads directly to a rise in cancer metastasis." Ji-Xin Cheng of Purdue's Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Chemistry.
Then there's:

Results showed the increase in lipids had no impact on the original tumors implanted in the mice. However, the rate of metastasis rose a dramatic 300 percent in the mice fed a high-fat diet.

The researches used the imaging and cell-counting tools to document that linoleic acid, which is predominant in polyunsaturated fats, caused increasing membrane phase separation, whereas oleic acid, found in monounsaturated fats, did not. Increased membrane phase separation could improve the opportunity of circulating tumor cells to adhere to blood vessel walls and escape to organs far from the original tumor site.

What's the truth behind the headlines and the scary graphic?

It's something that has been known for years.

Something that nutritionists and governments alike are not only ignoring, but actively encouraging the world to do.

What is it?

"The new findings support earlier evidence from other research that consuming high amounts of polyunsaturated fat may increase the risk of cancer spreading."

Yes, polyunsaturated fats - those 'healthy' vegetable oils - may help the spread of cancer through the body. The researchers fed the mice on linoleic acid - Omega-6 - a PUFA.

Don't believe me? Read the study here.

How long will it be before Dr Susan Jebb, the Food Standards Agency, and the World Cancer Resarch Fund et al start citing this study as proof positive that we must never, ever, ever, eat saturated fats?

Let's just see, shall we?

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