The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) is recommending that, simply by cutting back on salty foods including “bacon, bread and breakfast cereals” — i.e., things that people don’t always associate with salt intake — we can reduce rates of stomach cancer. The WCRF is also calling for the salt content of foods to be labeled more clearly.
About 6 grams — a level teaspoonful — is the daily recommended limit of salt but people tend to eat about 8.6 grams.
There are around 6,000 cases of stomach cancer every year in the UK and about 21,000 in the US.
The WCRF estimates that about 18 percent of stomach cancers, about 800 cases, in the UK could be prevented if people stuck to the recommended 6 grams, says the BBC:
Kate Mendoza, head of health information at WCRF, said: “Stomach cancer is difficult to treat successfully because most cases are not caught until the disease is well-established.
“This places even greater emphasis on making lifestyle choices to prevent the disease occurring in the first place – such as cutting down on salt intake and eating more fruit and vegetables.”
The problem is that the “vast majority” of salt we consume is already inside food, not added by sprinkling it on or even from eating foods that are clearly salty, like potato chips.
In an effect to help people have a better understanding of how much salt is in their food, the WCRF wants to have a “traffic-light” system for labeling the salt content in food, red for high, amber for medium and green for low. Not surprisingly, manufacturers (who, of course, know that salt makes food taste good so that consumers will want to buy more) object to the idea and insist they need the “freedom” to design their own labels for the fat, sodium and sugar content of their products.
Other foods that are risk factors for stomach cancer are those that are smoked, salted, or pickled. Eating large amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables has been associated with a lower risk of the disease.
Global cancer rates are predicted to rise by 75 percent by 2030, according to a study published in June in British medical journal The Lancet. The same study noted that rates of stomach cancer have been declining in middle-income and wealthy countries but that breast, lung, colorectal and prostate cancers accounted for half the cases of cancer in wealthy countries with the highest standards of living in 2008. The culprits pointed to are lifestyle choices (smoking, inactivity) and a westernized diet containing red and processed meats, refined grains, fats and sugars — and, simply because it is readily available, salt.
Should foods be labeled for their salt content with the “traffic light” system? Since we do have the freedom to choose what we eat, shouldn’t we take preventative measures when we can?
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