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Thread: Thoughts on the Japanese cancer conundrum?

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  1. #1
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    Thoughts on the Japanese cancer conundrum?

    So, I was curious to know if you guys had any thoughts about why cancer rates are drastically lower in Japan than in most western nations. Lately I've been wondering why this should be the case.

    To explain, the Japanese people are heavy smokers as they easily have twice the percentage of smokers if not more, than the western nations. In addition, Mark has pointed out in a recent "Dear Mark" column that there appears to be some literature linking high conaumption of fermented foods to increased risk for gut and stomach cancers, and the Japanese (along with the other Asian cultures) consume copious amounts of these foods by western standards. Combine these risk factors and it becomes clear that Asian cultures should present with higher cancer rates than the western nations. Yet, this has never been th e case. In fact, the reverse is true. Asian cultures (especially Japan) have consistantly show lower rates of cancer than the west.

    So, what is it about their diet or lifestyle that seems to protect them from cancer that the western nations seem to be missing? Is it toeir high levels of tea consumption? Their tendacy to eat lots of sea vegetables? What might be a reasonable explanation for this interesting phenomenon?

    I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

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    In before grizz gives you a shouting lecture on the cancer curing disease destroying miracle cures of iodine.

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    Iodine may be amazing (I won't say it's not), but there's got to be more to it than that. It's easy to overdo the iodine to the point that it would cause more ills than good if one isn't careful. That's why I feel that there must be something else to explain this phenomenon, or perhaps a combination of factors.

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    Actually, I'm not so sure fermented foods are associated with increased cancer risk. Seems quite the opposite based on what I've read. And since that is the only thing you list as a risk factor it actually makes complete sense to me that they have lower rates.

    For instance...." New research has found that nattokinase also degrades amyloid fibrils and may be effective as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.20 In cabbage fermentation, phytochemicals known as glucosinolates are broken down into compounds including isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol, “anticarcinogens capable of preventing certain cancers,” according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.21"

    Katz, Sandor Ellix (2012-05-15). The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World (Kindle Locations 1332-1336). Chelsea Green Publishing. Kindle Edition.

    Course I did actually come across this also "Enjoy fermented foods and beverages in moderation. They have powerful effects and strong flavors and need to be respected. Eat them often rather than in large quantities. There is research indicating that high consumption of salty foods, including fermented ones, can cause many different problems. Ferments do not have to be salty or consumed in large quantities. Some research in Asia has suggested a correlation between high consumption of preserved vegetables and esophageal, nasopharyngeal, and some other cancers. Yet eating fresh fruits and vegetables has been found to reduce incidence of the same cancers.67 Again, moderation and diversity must guide our diets. Finally, frequent consumption of highly acidic foods can erode tooth enamel. Rinse your mouth with water and brush your teeth after you eat!"

    Katz, Sandor Ellix (2012-05-15). The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World (Kindle Locations 1515-1521). Chelsea Green Publishing. Kindle Edition.

    So that cites this article C. Hung et al., “Association Between Diet and Esophageal Cancer in Taiwan,” Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 19(6):632 (2004); J. M. Yuan, “Preserved Foods in Relation to Risk of Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma in Shanghai, China,” International Journal of Cancer 85(3):358 (2000). Which I haven't looked at yet.
    Last edited by Neckhammer; 10-22-2012 at 05:42 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neckhammer View Post
    Actually, I'm not so sure fermented foods are associated with increased cancer risk. Seems quite the opposite based on what I've read. And since that is the only thing you list as a risk factor it actually makes complete sense to me that they have lower rates.
    Hah, you should point this out to Mark and the others who were freaking out about it in the responses to his post.

    Although... Their extremely high percentage of citizens that smoke is NOT a risk factor?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drumroll View Post
    Hah, you should point this out to Mark and the others who were freaking out about it in the responses to his post.

    Although... Their extremely high percentage of citizens that smoke is NOT a risk factor?
    Could you link his column...haven't seen it. I missed your sentence on heavy smoking on first pass, so my bad. I did come across this though Carbohydrates, Japan, and Dr. Michael Eades | The Hammer of Health . Interesting breakdown about the smoking bit.

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    Probably because up until recently, there food culture has been higher quality whole foods with plenty of vegetables.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drumroll View Post
    Although... Their extremely high percentage of citizens that smoke is NOT a risk factor?
    I think a lot of the more research is pointing to the idea that lung cancer is mostly genetic. Smoking probably increases the risk in people who have the susceptible genes but doesn't in people that don't.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JWBooth View Post
    I think a lot of the more research is pointing to the idea that lung cancer is mostly genetic. Smoking probably increases the risk in people who have the susceptible genes but doesn't in people that don't.
    So the Japanese are simply less genetically predisposed to lung cancer than other races are? It can't be THAT simple...

  10. #10
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    Smoking aside, when you talk to Japanese about cancer it is almost always stomach cancer that is referred to as the number one cancer. Japanese doctors I have talked to attribute it to salt in the diet. A traditional meal would be fish (if soy sauce=salt), miso soup (salt), pickles (salt), and some sort of veggies with soy sauce or miso (salt) and rice. Lunch out might be ramen (salt) or other noodles (salt), etc. I was recently diagnosed as gluten intolerant and I NEVER eat out in Japan now because everything has soy sauce in it.

    As far as carb consumption goes, yes, there is a lot of rice eaten but have you seen the size of a bowl? A Japanese rice bowl is the size of my hand cupped. That's it. When I see the bento lunches that the office ladies have it is soooo small. So portion is certainly different compared to a Western diet.

    Cancer rates are going to be catching up to the West due to diet changes. Lots more junk and fast food consumed now.

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