Minerals versus Cancer, Part III

The Best Sources of Iron

If you are concerned about your iron intake, consider some of these sources:

* Lean meats and shellfish

* Whole grain or enriched cereals

* Dried apricots, prunes, or raisins

* Nuts and wheat germ

* Dried beans and peas

* Leafy green vegetables

Liver, especially pork liver, contains large amounts of iron. But it is also rich in cholesterol. Too many of us eat too much of cholesterol-containing foods. Egg yolk has a moderate iron content; it is high in cholesterol, too.

The iron in flesh foods, called heme iron, is best absorbed by the body. Yet studies have found no more iron-deficiency anemia among vegetarians than among meat eaters.

One possible explanation is vitamin C. It enhances absorption of the iron in foods. Vegetarians often consume more vitamin C than meat-eaters. The vitamin C may compensate for the absence of meat in their diets.

A Look at Lead

Lead has long been in the headlines. Lead poisoning has occurred too frequently among children – often from eating chips of old paint that contained lead.

Whatever lead also plays any role in the cancer process is an open question. Only a few studies have been done – mostly in animals. These studies suggest that large amounts of lead might increase the risk of kidney cancer. But this form of cancer is not very common. (I never forget my friend, a medical doctor, who died 4 years ago, at the age of 40, due to kidney cancer).

The committee on Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer declined to make any recommendations regarding lead.

Some Advice about Canned Foods

Lead remains a concern to health experts for other reasons. The chances of getting lead poisoning are not great, but the problems has yet to be eliminated in U.S. and other countries. Infants, children, and pregnant women are at greatest risk.

Scientists estimate that food accounts for 55 – 85 percent of our exposure to lead. The lead in canned foods can seep into the food itself. Public pressure and encouragement from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have led canners to reduce the lead content of food by almost 40 percent during the last 30 years.

Acidic foods packed in cans made with lead are the most likely to absorb this mineral. Fruits and fruit juices, including tomato products, fall into this category. If these foods are stored in the can after opening, the lead content can increase fivefold in less than a week.

Lead experts urge us not to store acidic foods in cans after opening. Transfer the food to a glass or plastic container. This precaution will go a long way to preventing unnecessary lead in the diet. Foods taste better, too, when this advice is followed.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to tell whether a csn has been soldered with lead. Evaporated milk is usually packed in lead-soldered cans. Infant formulas are not. Processed meats are also usually packed in non-leaded cans.

There’s Much More to the Story

Though research has yet to find that lead or other minerals play a major role in cancer prevention, the story of nutrition and cancer is not yet over. We have looked at vitamins, minerals, fiber, and cancer inhibitors. but there’s more to come.

The Next story tells about the dietary change that may offer the biggest dividends of all.