Bulletin No 95, April 1998
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DIET AND CANCER
A report by a Working Group of independent experts of the Committee on
Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA) on the Nutritional Aspects
of the Development of Cancer was published on 5 March 1998.
Key recommendations in the report are:
- to keep a healthy body weight and not to increase it during adult life;
- to increase the amount and variety of fruits and vegetables eaten;
- to increase intakes of dietary fibre from a variety of foods;
- adults who eat more than the average amount of red and processed meat,
especially those eating a lot more, might benefit from and should consider a
As a guide, adults in the UK now eat on average about 90 grams each day of
cooked red and processed meat, or about eight to ten portions a week. Red meat
is beef, lamb and pork, and examples of processed meat are burgers and sausages.
High consumers are those who eat about 140 grams or more each day, roughly
twelve to fourteen portions each week.
These recommendations should be followed in the context of COMA's wider
recommendations for a balanced diet rich in cereals, fruits and vegetables.
In addition, the Working Group also recommended:
- the avoidance of beta-carotene supplements as a means of protecting against
- the need to exercise caution in the use of high doses of purified
supplements of other micronutrients as they cannot be assumed to be without
Beta-carotene is a substance that the body converts into vitamin A. The high
dose supplements referred to by COMA's report contain much higher levels than
found in the average daily diet or from, for example, one-a-day multi-vitamins.
COMA also made several recommendations for future research to clarify the
links between diet and cancer, and for a review of the nutritional implications
of a reduction of red and processed meat in low consumers, for example on iron
intakes and anaemia.
The Working Group made a number of research recommendations and recommended
that the topic of diet and cancer be the subject of further review in the
Copies of the report (price £19.50, ISBN 0113220898) can be
obtained from The Stationery Office Bookshops or The Stationery Office
Publications Centre, P O Box 276, London SW8 5DT. Telephone orders can placed on
+44 (0)171 873 9090; faxed orders on +44 (0)171 873 8200.
For consumers who want more information on their diet, a factsheet can
be obtained from the Health Education Authority on +44 (0)1235 465565.
Further information on the work of COMA can be obtained from the COMA
Secretariat, JFSSG, Department of Health, Room 631b Skipton House, 80 London
Road, London, SE1 6LH. Tel. No. +44(0)171 972 5097.
These pages were last updated on 26/3/98