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STUDY: Eating right can lower cancer, heart disease risks
JOURNAL: American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR)
ABSTRACT: Along with national statistics identifying an increase in both adult and childhood obesity, new studies show that the negative effects of obesity and excess calorie consumption give us even more reasons for concern. A recent report from AARP, the organization for people age 50 and over, cautions, “Although Americans age 50+ are healthier, with fewer smoking and more using preventive services and trying to exercise, obesity could cancel out many of the gains.”
COMMENTARY: A landmark report from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), on how eating habits influence cancer risk, concludes that maintaining a healthy weight probably plays a significant role in preventing several cancers. Since then, studies have demonstrated that excess calorie consumption can affect insulin metabolism, possibly increasing the risk of colon and other cancers.
Avoiding excess calories, on the other hand, reduces possible cancer-causing damage to our genes’ DNA and enhances its repair. Research at the National Cancer Institute, for example, shows that moderate restriction of calorie consumption reduces the number of pre-cancerous intestinal polyps in mice with a genetic tendency to develop these cancers.
Controlling excess weight seems to offer heart health benefits as well. We’ve known for some time that obesity is linked to high blood pressure and diabetes, both of which increase the risk of heart disease. One of the newer heart risks under study involves levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which seems to be a marker of infections or inflammation in the body. Higher CRP is also often seen in conjunction with obesity, suggesting that obesity may somehow be associated with low-grade inflammation. A recent study in the journal Circulation, involving obese women with elevated CRP, showed that when they lost an average of 33 pounds, their CRP levels dropped 32 percent.
Experts are cautious about responding to this growing list of weight-related hazards with over-zealous approaches. Studies show that when people try to lose weight by overly restricting calories or the foods allowed, they often rebound with tendencies to binge.
Research shows that the increase in obesity in our country has come at a time of greatly increasing portion sizes, so simply cutting back to more appropriate portions may be all that’s needed.
AICR encourages consumers to use a common-sense approach to weight control with its “New American Plate.” This new approach to eating, which calls for at least two-thirds of our plates to be filled with vegetables, fruits and whole grains, will automatically lower our calorie counts. Even better, with this approach we also boost our intake of the nutrients, fiber and phytochemicals that help protect against cancer and heart disease.