TARRYTOWN, NY--America's major medical research institutions are
failing to conduct the nutritional research needed to make a major
public health impact on cancer and other diseases, says Peter
Greenwald, MD, director of the division of cancer prevention and
control at the National Cancer Institute.
The value system of most research centers is focused on getting
more and more precise data on the molecular level, Dr. Greenwald
said. Nutritional research does not appear as attractive because
it offers less precise information. But, he noted, approximate
answers to nutritional questions can have a huge impact on health:
"This is a very complex area, and you can't always expect
precise, mechanistic answers to these questions."
Dr. Greenwald spoke at a symposium celebrating the 25th anniversary
of the American Health Foundation, which is largely devoted to
nutritional research. Another speaker, Leonard Cohen, PhD, director
of nutritional endocrinology at the foundation, listed questions
about the role of nutrients in cancer causation that he said urgently
1. Is all dietary fat bad or is there a threshold below which
intake is safe? "If there is a threshold, it's very critical
to find out what it is," Dr. Cohen said. "But we don't
know whether the threshold would be the same for every person
and every age group."
2. What are the effects of different kinds of fat? "Eskimos
get 60% of their calories from fat, far more than most Americans,
yet they have a low incidence of cancer. Their fat comes in the
form of omega fatty acids, which are not a major factor in the
American diet," he said.
3. How much and what kinds of fiber protect against cancer?
4. How do fiber and fat interact?