Cancer survivors aren’t healthy eaters, a study suggests. Survey results from over 1,500 adult cancer survivors in the U.S. revealed that most of them wouldn’t follow the national dietary guidelines.

Compared with the general population, cancer survivors consumed more empty calories in the form of solid fats, alcohol, and added sugars, reported a research team led by Fang Fang Zhang, MD, PhD, of Tufts University in Boston. Credit:

Oncologists say that a healthy diet increases the odds of surviving cancer, changing the previous message given to people. “In the past, when a person was diagnosed with cancer, we kind of gave the message that they should go home, eat whatever they want, put their feet up,” said study co-author Wendy Demark-Wahnefried.

Experts say that there is not enough research to tell cancer patients what they should eat and what they shouldn’t. Doctors have some guidelines, but they are not really backed with qualified data, so they can’t assure that a person will survive if they follow a certain diet. Moreover, some people drop their healthy habits after they’ve beaten the disease, added Dr. Stephen Freedland, according to CBS News.

Researchers analyzed data from 1,500 survivors from 1999 to 2010, and 3,100 people never diagnosed with cancer to contrast the results. Participants didn’t say what time they were diagnosed, and they were asked to list what they ate over the previous 24 hours.

Only 47 percent of cancer survivors showed to follow the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, and the consumption of grains and vegetables was poor. Nevertheless, the difference with people who had not had cancer was minimum —only 48 percent. Also, the survivors showed a higher rate of fat, added sugar and alcohol consumption, the study says.

Researchers couldn’t explain if the disease changed their eating habits, and how it could have influenced them. “One possibility is that their diets were poor before, and they’re still poor now,” Demark-Wahnefried said, according to CBS News. “After you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, sometimes you might say, ‘What the heck, what’s a brownie?’ That could be a factor. We really don’t know what drives these decisions.”

These changes that occur in people suffering from cancer may be explained from various views: it could be the symptoms, the treatment, depression, or anxiety, according to Dr. Fang Fang Zhang. Also, researchers pointed out that the difference on eating habits of both groups was not significant.

Although doctors say that some patients give up their dates after the disease has passed, it is important to educate and inform all people suffering from cancer in order to help them get through the disease in the easiest way. Dr. Freeland stated that most of them do not discuss the matter with patients, unless they are interested in it, stating that most patients tend to be receptive.

Source: CBS News