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The Path To Good Health
Is Through The Stomach




The path to good health is through the stomach, according to Reza Hakkak, a research investigator at Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute.

Hakkak's preliminary studies show that a carcinogen known as DMBA, found in some cooked foods as well as cigarette smoke and car exhaust, causes mammory tumors to develop in obese rats more than two times more often than in lean rats.

Hakkak, also a professor of dietetics and nutrition at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the Susan. G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

His research is on the role of the diet in preventing specific kinds of diseases, especially breast and colon cancer. The grant money will help him further his research into the relationships among obesity, carcinogens and breast cancer that he began two years ago.

His work under the new grant will again involve rats. The rats will be surgically altered so they mimic post-menopausal women, who are at the greatest risk of developing breast cancer, Hakkak said. They will then be fed special diets that include carcinogens in an effort to determine the links between obesity and tumor development, he said.

People are exposed to carcinogens every day in two major ways, Hakkak said. Everybody has some exposure to a limited amount of airborne carcinogens — such as from cigarette smoke or vehicle exhaust — while others are in the food they eat.

"The diet is the (best) route into the human body for carcinogens," Hakkak said, "so we need to pay attention to what we eat."

All foods have the potential to either aid or discourage diseases from appearing, Hakkak said. "The diet either promotes or prevents diseases," he said.

The level of fat in foods is a factor in promoting disease, as is calorie intake. Hakkak said that, since 1980 the average calorie intake per person in this country has risen significantly.

One type of chemical found in foods that can help prevent disease are phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables.

"These are really beneficial," Hakkak said.

Recognition of that has prompted dietary experts to raise the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables from 5 servings a day to nine.

"Food is the cheapest way to prevent diseases," he said. "I think nutrition research will have to make every single effort to prevent obesity, to solve this problem," Hakkak said.


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