In June, the American Cancer Society updated its diet guideline for cancer prevention for the first time since 2012.
The updated recommendations have an increased emphasis on following a healthy eating pattern by reducing the consumption of processed and red meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, processed foods and alcohol.
Previously, the ACS recommended that individuals consume a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plants foods. People were encouraged to choose foods and beverages in amounts that helped achieve and maintain a healthy weight. The diet guideline included limiting consumption of processed and red meat, eating at least 2.5 cups of vegetables and fruits each day and choosing whole grains instead of refined grain products.
Today, the ACS encourages people to follow a healthy eating pattern at all ages that includes:
Foods that are high in nutrients in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
A variety of vegetables — dark green, red and orange, fiber-rich legumes (beans and peas) and others.
Fruits, especially whole fruits with a variety of colors.
Whole grains, such as brown rice, 100% whole wheat bread, pasta or crackers and oats.
The ACS adds that a healthy eating pattern limits or does not include:
Red and processed meats.
Highly processed foods and refined grain products.
The new diet guideline also addresses alcohol intake. In the 2012 update, the ACS stated if you drink alcoholic beverages, limit consumption by drinking no more than one drink per day for women or two per day for men.
In the 2020 update, the cancer society says it is best not to drink alcohol and that people who do choose to drink alcohol should limit their consumption to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Dr. Laura Makaroff with the American Cancer Society adds that the guideline continues to reflect the current science that dietary patterns, not specific foods, are important to reduce the risk of cancer and improve overall health.
“There is no one food or even food group that is adequate to achieve a significant reduction in cancer risk,” she said. “Current and evolving scientific evidence supports a shift away from a nutrient-centric approach to a more holistic concept of dietary patterns. People eat whole foods — not nutrients — and evidence continues to suggest that it is healthy dietary patterns that are associated with reduced risk for cancer, especially colorectal and breast cancer.”
The updated recommendations by the ACS are based on systematic reviews conducted by the International Agency on Cancer Research (IARC); the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR); and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services (USDA/HHS).
The latest update is consistent with the recommendations from those groups as well as other major recommending bodies.