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High salt diet/Helicobacter pylori linked to gastric cancer

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By Jimmy Downs
Sunday April 21, 2013 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study scheduled to be published in the June 2013 issue of Infection and Immunity suggests that a combination of high salt diet and infection with Helicobacter pylori  can cause stomach cancer or gastric cancer.

The study led by Timothy L. Cover and colleagues of Vanderbilt University and colleagues shows that high dietary salt combined with infection by H. pylori, which causes ulcer, greatly raises the risk of cancer.

Early studies by Cover and others have already shown that H. pylori produces a carcinogen  in a high salt environment.  According to the authors, the development of gastric cancer requires the presence of a bacterial oncoprotein known as CagA produced by H. pylori.  H. pylori without the capability of producing the oncoprotein does not cause cancer.
In the current study, Mongolian gerbils were exposed to H. pylori and then one group received a regular diet while the other used a high salt diet.   At the end of the study, researchers found all animals on the high salt diet developed cancer.

Also exposure of gerbils infected with H. pylori to a high salt diet led to higher levels of  inflammation, compared with those on a regular diet.

At least 50 percent of humans are infected with H. pylori and 90 percent of them do not experience any symptoms.

The study suggests that dietary salt reduction can help prevent gastric cancer.

Other preventatives include taking certain vitamins or phytochemicalls such as fiber, β-carotene, folate, and vitamins C and B6 can reduce risk of gastric cancer and other malignancies.

Susan T. Mayne from Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut  and colleagues reported in Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prevention that fiber and these vitamins were associated inversely with esophageal adenocarcinoma, adenocarcinoma of the gastric cardia, esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, and noncardia gastric adenocarcinoma.

On the other hand, dietary cholesterol, animal protein, and vitamin B12 (animal-based foods) were found significantly positively associated with risk of all four tumor types.

This study suggests that a plant-based diet can help prevent gastric cancer.

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