June 27, 2011
Dr. Johanna Lampe researches cancer prevention and treatment, especially the role of diet and plant foods in altering our susceptibility to cancer. She took time from her hectic schedule to answer a few questions before her talk at VegFest in September.
Q: You research how plant foods can alter our risk of contracting cancer. Can you describe your work to us? What is the hypothesis you're working to prove/disprove?
A: My research group is interested in how various components of plant foods may affect cancer susceptibility. Much of our focus has been on how these components affect processes important to cancer, such as inflammation and carcinogen metabolism. We often follow up on observations from epidemiologic studies where diet has been associated with lower risk of cancer.
Q: How has your research been received?
A: There is a lot of interest in diet and cancer prevention. I think people are intrigued that food choices may affect cancer risk, either increasing or decreasing it.
Q: Generally, whole plant foods (a bundle of broccoli, for example) are more expensive than fast foods (like a dollar meal). What do you think will enable and inspire people to eat a more plant-based diet? Are cost or accessibility factors, or do people simply need to taste savory plant-based meals?
A: Cost and accessibility are certainly a factor for some, as are not knowing how to cook vegetables so that they are tasty and enjoyable. I think that we are not doing a good enough job of teaching the younger generations how to prepare and enjoy food, especially vegetables.
Q: On that note, what is one of your favorite meals and why?
A: One of my favorite meals is a vegetable tagine (a vegetable stew) usually accompanied by whole-wheat couscous and a big green salad. The combination of many types of vegetables, dried fruits, almonds, and the mixture of spices in a Moroccan ras el hanout makes for a sensory feast.
Q: Finally, you won an award for being a great mentor in addition to the research, teaching, writing, and speaking you do. As an accomplished and successful professional, do you have any tips for us about how you balance your life?
A: One of the great things for many of us who choose research as a profession is that we are doing what we love to do. Therefore, even if my life is unbalanced, I am having a great time. That said, I do enjoy doing a variety of other things outside of science and make a point to schedule them as part of the 24 hours in my day.