Cancer Survivors May Have Poorer Eating Habits than the General Population

They tend to consume more fats, alcohol, and sugars, according to a Tufts study.

Those who have been diagnosed with and survived cancer maintain noticeably lower quality eating habits than the general U.S. population, according to a recent study from the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition.

The study, published last week in the journal Cancer, found that cancer survivors may be more likely to consume more empty calories than peers who have not overcome the disease. Specifically, their diets tend to consist of more solid fats, alcohol, and added sugar, but significantly less nutritional fiber.

The Tufts team reached those conclusions by studying the food intake of more than 1,500 American cancer survivors, and comparing those trends with the patterns of 3,075 individuals with no history of cancer. The team measured their findings against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2010 “Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

The researchers also found that survivors, on average, are getting only 31 percent of their recommended daily intake of vitamin D, and 47 percent of their vitamin E. They were also often deficient in calcium and potassium, but consumed around 110 percent of the recommended intake of sodium and saturated fat. When adjusting for those survivors who had a habit of smoking, the dietary differences between the two groups was slightly lowered.

Though its possible that individuals with poor dietary habits are more likely to develop cancer in the first place, the researchers wrote in the study abstract that, “it remains unclear whether cancer survivors adhere to existing dietary guidelines and whether survivors’ diets differ from those of individuals without cancer over the long term.”