Infographic with text: "Benefits of Healthy Food: Productivity, disease prevention, better taste buds, higher energy levels and therefore more balance and happiness".

What is the effect of diet on cancer?

A who­le­so­me and balan­ced diet ensu­res an ade­qua­te sup­p­ly of ener­gy and nut­ri­ents, vit­amins, mine­rals and trace ele­ments. So much for the very easy to under­stand theo­ry. Howe­ver, trans­la­ting this into prac­ti­ce is not always that easy. An aggravating cir­cum­s­tance such as can­cer increa­ses the pro­blem: a healt­hy diet for a bet­ter qua­li­ty of life.

Food Pyramid

A healt­hy, balan­ced, varied diet pro­mo­tes good health. This pro­ject is sup­port­ed in ever­y­day life by a so-cal­led food pyra­mid. It gene­ral­ly reflects the natu­re and rela­ti­ve pro­por­ti­on of the dai­ly die­ta­ry com­pon­ents. The Fede­ral Cen­ter for Nut­ri­ti­on (BZfE) advo­ca­tes that fun and enjoy­ment should play an important role in eating and drin­king. In the model of the food pyra­mid, foods are the­r­e­fo­re grou­ped into modu­les and por­ti­on sizes in order to pro­vi­de a very easy ori­en­ta­ti­on for a balan­ced dai­ly diet (see figu­re). In addi­ti­on, the indi­vi­du­al modu­les were divi­ded into traf­fic light colors to empha­si­ze which foods should be con­su­med “abun­dant­ly”, “modera­te­ly” or “spa­rin­gly”. Accor­ding to the food pyra­mid, nut­ri­ents from “super­food” should con­tain health-pro­mo­ting properties.


The term “super­food” is per se a buz­zword and mar­ke­ting inven­ti­on. It sug­gests a supe­ri­or qua­li­ty. Foods are refer­red to as super­foods in adver­ti­se­ments when they are said to be par­ti­cu­lar­ly bene­fi­ci­al to health and well­ness. But that’s often just win­dow dres­sing. Exo­tic most­ly non-regio­nal plants and extra­cts are not auto­ma­ti­cal­ly health-pro­mo­ting. Howe­ver, the­re are expe­ri­men­tal stu­dies that cer­ti­fy the posi­ti­ve pro­per­ties of the nut­ri­ents in some super­foods. A posi­ti­ve signal for the super­food trend. Many sci­en­tists are nevert­hel­ess cri­ti­cal. Becau­se the stu­dies are only based on cell and ani­mal expe­ri­ments. They usual­ly only exami­ne indi­vi­du­al acti­ve ingre­di­ents, but not the food as a who­le. A cer­tain skep­ti­cism is the­r­e­fo­re appro­pria­te when super­food is some­ti­mes even inten­ded to alle­via­te health problems.

Tho­se affec­ted by can­cer should nevert­hel­ess pay con­scious atten­ti­on to their diet. The power of nut­ri­ti­on can have heal­ing effects and should be cho­sen systematically.

Strategies to reduce cancer risk

The pre­ven­ti­ve effect of nut­ri­ti­on in can­cer (e.g. befo­re a recur­rence) and indi­vi­du­al foods should not be view­ed in iso­la­ti­on. It only comes into play when com­bi­ned with exer­cise and a healt­hy life­style. A per­son who eats well but smo­kes and does not exer­cise has an increased risk of can­cer. Fur­ther risk fac­tors that can influence the phy­si­cal con­di­ti­on can be found in the Euro­pean Can­cer Code — Rules against Can­cer. Rule 5 is: “Eat a balan­ced and healt­hy diet.”

Con­scious eating is the best stra­tegy for a balan­ced and healt­hy diet. In the case of can­cer, pro­fes­sio­nal advice is the cen­tral buil­ding block. Nut­ri­tio­nal coun­seling ser­ves to pre­vent mal­nu­tri­ti­on, as well as to tre­at mal­nu­tri­ti­on that may be neces­sa­ry. Nut­ri­tio­nal scree­ning and nut­ri­tio­nal advice sup­port can­cer the­ra­py by hel­ping to main­tain or impro­ve nut­ri­tio­nal sta­tus. This can pre­vent unwan­ted weight loss and the loss of mus­cle mass that is often asso­cia­ted with it. Pati­ents with a good nut­ri­tio­nal sta­tus have more strength, more ener­gy and a bet­ter defen­se against infec­tions and thus a bet­ter qua­li­ty of life. After all, a healt­hy life­style can pre­vent cancer.

For inspi­ra­ti­on for a bet­ter sen­se of tas­te and thus con­scious nut­ri­ti­on: pro­mo­ting the sen­se of tas­te: Prof. Mich­al­sen (12:27min)

Prof. Andre­as Mich­al­sen, an expert in natur­opa­thy and nut­ri­ti­on, reports on the sen­se of tas­te from a medi­cal per­spec­ti­ve and gives tips on how to impro­ve it.


Can­cer infor­ma­ti­on ser­vice from the DKFZ

Prof. Andre­as Mich­al­sen: Ova­ri­an Can­cer Foun­da­ti­on

Imma­nu­el Hos­pi­tal Ber­lin

Fede­ral Cen­ter for Nut­ri­ti­on (BZfE)

Bava­ri­an Can­cer Socie­ty — Euro­pean Can­cer Code

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