Sunday, September 09, 2012

Weight loss cuts cancer risk, but only if....

My weight is always changing -- but not because I have any control over it. I've been dismayed over the years at how little control I've had over my weight changes, which have mostly been weight gains. Then I stopped taking a particular medicine that my doctor says is an "appetite enhancer," and miraculously I did seem to have some control. I no longer felt like eating constantly! How nice! Yep, I did lose a few pounds. Will they stay off?  Who knows.

I try not to think about weight too much, being mindful of the cultural and media pressures women feel to stay "skinny." Yes, I do read the tabloids in the grocery check-out line, and I look at all the pics! Bad habit!! Why poison my mind with unfair gender-based expectations?

But...the fact remains that leaner is healthier in general, and I don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Weight loss with diet change reduces risk

With that in mind, I was interested to read a recent study that suggests weight loss can cut cancer risk. The study, published in the journal Cancer Research (May 1), reports that losing weight by dieting (or by dieting with exercise) reduces the level of chronic inflammation in the body. And chronic inflammation is known to be a risk factor for many cancers, including breast, colon, and lung cancers.

The first time I read about chronic inflammation, I thought, "What? I'm not inflamed anywhere." But chronic inflammation is common, and it's not readily apparent because it's internal. It occurs when the body's natural response to an injury or irritant doesn't go away completely.

Weight loss by exercise only does not reduce risk

The interesting thing about this Cancer Research study is that losing weight by exercise only (with no diet change) does not significantly reduce chronic inflammation. And therefore presumably does not reduce the risk of various diseases associated with chronic inflammation, including cancer.

Apparently, high-fat foods contribute to the likelihood of chronic inflammation and its consequences. In contrast, lots of vegetables and dietary fiber help fight inflammation.

Good motivation

That's good incentive for me. Even if my weight continues to yo-yo, I have more reasons than ever to watch what I eat. I'll continue to stick with the high-fiber vegetables and whole grains I already seek out. And I'm gonna lay off the grocery-store mags in the check-out line. That'll make it easier to keep my priorities straight: eating right is about health, period.

For more info:

For more about this study, see this summary in Science News.
Or check out the original publication in Cancer Research.
For one doctor's recommendations about food choices to reduce chronic inflammation, click here. You can find others by searching the internet.

Keywords: dieting low fat diet weight loss cancer risk exercise how to reduce cancer risk health