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
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
"These are really beneficial,"
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.