Category Archives: Diet/Exercise

New Year, New You: Cancer.org Can Help

Hand on a Scale

It’s that time of year again. The time when many of us set new goals, start positive lifestyle changes, or seek to improve our lives in one way or another. Whether you choose to make a New Year’s resolution or not – now is a great time to take a look at your health and habits and think about what you could be doing better.

But sometimes it is hard to know where to start. Cancer.org offers a wealth of information to help you be healthy. Here’s a roundup of our 10 most popular health and wellness articles to get you going:

  1. If you’re trying to quit smoking: Kicking the habit is hard. But our guide to quitting smoking walks you through all you need to know about how to successfully stop.
  1. If you’re working on cutting calories: Eating the right amount of nutritious foods can help you get to and stay at a healthy weight – which is important to your overall health and can help prevent cancer. Use our calorie counter tool to get an estimate of how many calories you need.
  1. If you’re looking for motivation to lose weight: If you are trying to lose weight this year and need some extra motivation, review our information about how being overweight or obese can raise your risk for certain types of cancer.
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Of Tennis Shoes, Sidewalks, and Crosswalks

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD

I wrote this blog in my head first, while I was on a walk. I was thinking about how fortunate I am to live in an area that I can walk – safely – for fitness and fun, for date nights and errands. But it wasn’t always that way.

My family and I used to live in a neighborhood where we could not walk to anything from our home. Besides having no stores, restaurants, schools, dry cleaners – you name it – within a reasonable walking distance, the road leading to our neighborhood was narrow, had no sidewalks, and people sped down that road with reckless abandon.

When we decided to move “in town,” we were ecstatic. I could walk or ride my bike to work, our kids could bike to school, and we could even walk to the gym to get our workouts in. We saved lots of money by not having to fill up our gas tanks so frequently. We felt less stress from not having to drive as often on traffic-packed highways and roads.  Physical, financial and quality of life benefits — all from living in an area where we could get out and walk, safely, and for multiple purposes. 

The Surgeon General’s Call to Action

All this has been on my mind because a new report is being released today: The Surgeon General’s Call to Action on Walking and Walkable Communities.… Continue reading →

Less Food Marketing, Healthier Children

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD

Have you seen all those fun and flashy commercials encouraging your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables? No? Neither have I. And there’s a reason for that. 

Out of the $1.79 billion that the Federal Trade Commission says major food and beverage companies spent marketing foods and beverages to kids and teens (in 2009 – the most recent data available), less than .05% was spent marketing fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately for those of us who care about children’s health – which I hope is all of us – the majority of those dollars was spent on marketing unhealthy foods and beverages. Forty percent was spent to market fast food and other restaurant foods, and another 22% was spent promoting high-sugar sodas and other carbonated beverages.

And consider these additional statistics:

  • Two BILLION advertisements for foods and drinks appeared on websites directed at kids in 2009, mostly for sugary cereals and fast food.
  • Dollars spent to market foods and drinks to kids via online games, mobile apps, social network ads, and other digital media increased by 51% from 2006 to 2009.
  • Companies spent $149 MILLION in 2009 to market sugary drinks and food in schools.
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Can eating chocolate prevent cancer?

By Ted Gansler, MD, MPH

 

In the course of my routine medical journal reading last year, I came across a short article in The Lancet Oncology about chocolate and cancer prevention. I saved that file on my computer (without reading it), thinking that it might serve as the point of departure for a lighthearted and slightly romantic Valentine’s Day essay on this blog.

With that deadline only a few days away, I opened the file and read the article, as well as a few others. The good news is that chocolate does not cause cancer and that moderate consumption of dark chocolate may have a positive impact on heart disease risk. The rest is more complicated.

If you try an Internet search for words like “chocolate prevents cancer,” you will find several thoughtful summaries of the available evidence. You will also find some cute but misleading articles implying that eating a lot of chocolate candy prevents cancer. And, you will find a lot of articles with cute headlines and introductions that save their unsweetened facts for the conclusion.

My favorite scientific reviews of cancer and chocolate evaluate information from pre-clinical studies, observational epidemiological studies, and clinical trials separately, and I will follow this approach to get the most thorough view of the topic.… Continue reading →

Does drinking alcohol increase the risk of cancer?

By Susan M. Gapstur, PhD, MPH

Do you enjoy an occasional, or even a daily, glass of wine, beer, or other drink that contains alcohol? Many adults do. Indeed, 37% of adults in the U.S. report drinking low to moderate amounts, which is, on average, up to 1 drink per day if you are a woman, and 2 drinks per day if you are a man. Another 28% of adults drink more each day, which is considered heavy drinking. A drink of alcohol is generally defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Modest Benefit but Many Risks Associated with Alcohol Drinking


While low to moderate alcohol consumption is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, drinking too much alcohol can increase risk of high blood pressure, heart failure, sudden death and stroke. Overall, alcohol consumption is one of the top 10 contributors to sickness and death from injuries, motor vehicle crashes, homicides and suicides, sexual assaults, sexually transmitted infections from unsafe sex, falls, birth defects, depression, disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, and sleep disorders.

Additionally, there is a lot of evidence that drinking alcohol increases the risk of several cancers.… Continue reading →

The obesity-cancer connection, and what we can do about it

By Lewis E. Foxhall, MD

It’s almost impossible to get through the holiday season without gaining a few pounds, and for many of us that means we are even more likely to be over our ideal body weight.  Sure, we all want to look good in our clothes, but being obese is not just a condition that affects our appearance.  And in March, during National Nutrition Month, it’s a good chance to talk about it.

Weight gain happens when we take in more calories from food (energy) than we use up through our basic biological requirements and exercise. After a while, enough fat stores up and makes us obese. Our bodies are very efficient at taking in energy and storing it for times when it is hard to find, but in our modern environment this is working against us and our health.  For most of us it is easy to get as much food as we want, and most of us do not need to exert ourselves much for work or daily living activities.


Link between obesity and cancer

The problem with being overweight or obese, as measured by weight and height, is that it raises our risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.… Continue reading →

The Bottom Line on Soy and Breast Cancer Risk

By Marji McCullough, ScD, RD

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. McCullough added the following statement 4/8/14 in response to questions related to sources of isoflavones:

Research on soy and cancer is highly complex, controversial, and evolving.

When concerns about soy are raised, they generally focus on findings from rodent models of cancer which tend to use isolated soy compounds like soy protein isolate or high doses of isoflavones (compounds found in soy).  However, soy is metabolized differently in humans than it is in mice and rats, so findings in rodents may not apply to people. (See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16614407 for more on this.)(Setchell, AJCN, 2011).  There is no evidence in the medical literature that soy protein isolate is bad for humans, compared to other forms of soy. Soy protein isolate is often used as a supplement in randomized studies of the effects of soy on health and none of these studies have shown harm.

Most of the studies suggesting benefits of soy consumption in people have measured how much soy foods people are eating, including tofu, soybeans, and soy milk.  These foods are more commonly eaten in Asian countries. In the U.S., purified forms of soy are used in the food supply, including in energy bars and soy hot dogs.  The few US studies that have measured these forms of soy do not suggest harm.Continue reading →

ACS Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines Evolve

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD

Today, the American Cancer Society released its 2012 Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity Cancer Prevention. Based on sound science and strong evidence, our best advice to the general public to help reduce their risk of cancer through nutrition and physical activity is to:

  • achieve and maintain a healthy weight throughout life
  • adopt a physically active lifestyle
  • consume a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant foods
  • limit consumption if you drink alcoholic beverages

As a matter of fact, for the majority of us who don’t smoke, these are the most important ways to reduce cancer risk. [more]

In addition to these recommendations for individuals, also included in the guidelines is a key Recommendation for Community Action:

Public, private, and community organizations should work together at national, state, and local levels to implement policy and environmental changes that:

  • Increase access to affordable, healthy foods in communities, worksites, and schools, and decrease access to and marketing of foods and beverages of low nutritional value, particularly to youth.
  • Provide safe, enjoyable, and accessible environments for physical activity in schools and worksites, and for transportation and recreation in communities.


Guidelines evolve with evidence

Writing about this last night got me thinking about how our nutrition and activity guidelines have changed since we first published them in 1984 as we’ve learned more about how nutrition and physical activity impact cancer risk.… Continue reading →

Jump on the ‘bran wagon’ for better health

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD

It may be time to jump on the “bran wagon,” if you’re not already on it.

 

In a study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers report that eating a high fiber diet reduces the risk of dying at an early age from a variety of causes, including heart disease, respiratory and infectious diseases, and among men, cancer.

 

During a 9-year study looking at diet and health, more than half a million AARP members between the ages of 50 and 71 completed a survey about their eating habits. Those who reported eating the most fiber (about 30 grams a day for men, and 26 grams a day for women) were 22% less likely to die from any cause during the study compared to those consuming the least amount (about 13 grams for men and 11 grams for women). [more]

 

Compared with men in the low fiber group, men in the high fiber group had a 24% – 56% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and infectious and respiratory diseases. Women consuming the highest amount of fiber had a 34%-59% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and infectious and respiratory diseases compared to women consuming the lowest amount, but there was no difference in cancer death rates.… Continue reading →

Beating Lunchbox Boredom the Healthy Way

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD

I read a recent study from a group of Harvard researchers who wanted to determine what foods and/or beverages are most likely to cause that slow and steady weight gain that many of us see over time as we get older – those things we eat or drink that may contribute to the number on our scale inching up ever so slightly year after year.

Interestingly enough, what topped the list were potato chips, potatoes (especially french fries), sugar-sweetened beverages and processed meats (think hot dogs).  And that got me thinking about my kids and what they eat at school. [more]


A Front in the War on Childhood Obesity

The nutritional quality of foods and beverages in schools has been a hot debate for quite some time, largely driven by trends in childhood obesity in this country. About 17% of US kids today are obese.

While kids eat plenty of foods outside of school, the foods and beverages available at schools are an important consideration because of the time our kids spend in school.  It’s been estimated that for some children, 50% of the calories they eat in a day are from school meals.

It’s been exciting to see innovative, kid-approved initiatives that are helping to reduce the calories, sugar, sodium, and fat in school meals – initiatives that are bringing salad bars to schools and getting local chefs to work with students to create new and healthier menu options that taste great, for example.… Continue reading →