Friday, April 1, 2016

The vegetarian cancer gene and Turmeric golden tofu

Okay, so if you have the internet, chances are you saw an article that has been all over the place which claims that a population of vegetarians in India are more prone to cancer than their meat eating counter parts. Now the story goes something like this:

A group of Indian vegetarians have a specific gene that alters the digestion of plant fats to produce arachidonic acid, and this acid can then be a risk factor in both heart disease and prostate cancer. The article also claims that generations of vegetarian eating caused this gene to be expressed this way.

Based off this, the reporter says that a vegetarian diet may change your genes and make you more susceptible to heart disease and canc… wow that is such a ridiculous statement it is not even worth typing.  The author also says that vegetarians suffer colorectal cancer as much as 40 times more than meat eaters. (Ugh)

It is apparently easy to publish absolute rubbish. I now understand why Dr. Garth Davis hates nutrition reporters and nutrition bloggers so much…

First lets simply address the fact that the study is looking at genomes not diets.

Next up, the idea that just because they are a predominantly vegetarian population, doesn't mean they are healthy eaters. Diets from this area are typically heavy in added oils and butters or ghee, dairy and on top of this, the dishes also often included fried foods. If the issue was diet related, chances are it has more to do with these items than with the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The claim that meat eaters have less colorectal cancer is also outrageously ridiculous. The author bases this claim off one study, which was later found to be incorrect when the data was revisited. Furthermore, not only have I previously outlined how TMAO is formed after consuming meat and dairy which increases the risk of heart disease, but the links between meat consumption and cancer are so strong that according to an article reviewed by Dr. Greger of the meat industry is studying the possibility of adding ingredients to meat which may help reduce the inherent cancer risks of consuming it.

Perhaps most ironic part of all this is that chicken and eggs are the two greatest sources of arachidonic acid according to the Institute of Medicines’ Dietary Reference Intakes list.

Finally, if you actually look at the study rather than the health reporters take on the study, it suggests that the massive doses of Omega-6 found in oils are most-likely the biggest part of the problem for the people with this particular genotype, but of course, we already knew oil isn’t healthy…   As Dr. Tom Brenna, one of the authors of the study said, “to say it is a vegetarian gene is quite a stretch…”


Turmeric Gold Tofu

Okay so if you are still worried about having some bizarre gene that could increase your risk of cancer, here is a great dish that can offer some comfort. We know that turmeric has several antioxidants that can offer some buffering protection, so give this deliciously golden tofu a try. 

Since we are heading into fall here in BA, we served the tofu with massaged kale, spaghetti squash (seeds which we brought from the US and planted at her families farm) and cardamom spiced rice. However, this tofu would also be fantastic on a large dark-green salad or even as a sandwich.

Let me know what you all think.

Turmeric Gold Tofu

1 package Firm Tofu – Cubed
2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2/3 tablespoon turmeric
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon black pepper

Put all of the spices together along with the mustard, the vinegar, and the soy sauce and mix well. Once well mixed, pour on top of the tofu and toss until the tofu is evenly coated.

Now put the tofu and all of the remaining dressing into a pan over medium-low heat and cover. Let cook for about 5-8 minutes and then stir the tofu. The sauce should start to simmer. Repeat this until the tofu is golden brown - roughly 15 minutes - and then serve hot or cold.

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

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