Caution: Eating may be bad for your health

My husband jokes that I’ve never forgotten a meal. He also teases me because as soon as I’ve finished one meal, a big burger for a Saturday lunch say, I’m already planning the next, “What do you want for dinner tonight?” I love to cook. I love to eat.

Thus, it always makes me a little sad, in my reporting travels, when I come across studies that show that the process of taking in food, and breaking it down into chemicals our bodies can use, seems to play a huge role in aging and disease. Scientists call the main culprit “oxidation.” That’s what happens when oxygen molecules interact with other substances. That’s why so many health foods tout the “anti-oxidants” in their ingredients.

Oxidation is what’s happening when a nail rusts, oxygen is interacting with the iron in the nail. It’s also what happens when fragments of this and that break off and interact with oxygen in your cells. It makes me smile to think that aging and disease may be linked to the biological equivalent of rusting. We’re all like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz!

Apparently, eating takes its toll over decades. I suspect that’s why many studies have shown that eating the bare minimum can slow aging and stave off disease.

We can now add another wrinkle to this calorie reduction story. A study just out in the journal “Science Translational Medicine” has shown that mice who fast for two days prior to receiving chemotherapy not only slow the progress of their cancer, they may also enhance the effectiveness of the chemo.

Drat. One more knock against eating. But I’m still wondering, “What shall I make for dinner tonight?”

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About leftbreast

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished "active treatment," two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone. I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I've been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species. I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I've been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I've taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride. When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I'm trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that's been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I'll be ready. That's what this blog is about.
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