Poor diet linked to cancer cases including uterine cancer

More than 80,000 cases of cancer in the U.S have been linked to an unhealthy diet according to a new study.

Data was collected from two national surveys on Americans diets and linked to U.S cancer cases. Poor diets included those low in whole grains, dairy, fruits and vegetables; and diets high in processed meats, red meats and sugar drinks.

Among adults over 20 years of age an estimated 80,110 new cancer cases, or about 5 per cent of total cancer cases diagnosed that year, were linked to an unhealthy diet. This is similar to the percentage of cancer cases tied to alcohol consumption, 4 to 6 per cent of yearly cancer cases.

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Those that consumed a diet of low whole-grain and low in dairy intake were linked with the most cancers, followed by high processed meat intake.

Colorectal cancer had the highest link to unhealthy diet - with 52,225 cases or 38 per cent of colorectal cancers per year diet-related. This was followed by cancers of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx (14,4421 cases, 26%), uterine cancer (3,165 cases, 6%), and post-menopausal breast cancer (3,060 cases, 1.5%).

The good news about this research? Conservative estimates suggest that up to 5% of all new cancer cases could be preventable by eating healthier. However, most of us also would agree that this is easier said than done. Let me talk to you about a method I have looked into --- fasting.

Research reveals fasting has many health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, reduced cancer and neurodegenerative disease risk, gene repair, and potentially increased longevity.

What happens to your body when you fast

In your body’s normal state the body depletes its glucose stores in the liver and muscles, as your body's main source of energy. When you fast, this store of glucose is used up. Fat tissue becomes the next source of energy for the body and gets burnt instead of glucose. Another mechanism that makes fasting beneficial for health is its effect on insulin sensitivity.

Last but not least, fasting gives your gut a break, which can lead to decreased bloating and indigestion.

Types of fasting

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. Intermittent fasting involves restricting calorie intake on some days and eating “normal” on others. The 5:2 approach is the most common, where you eat 500-600 calories on your 2 fasting days and eat regularly on the remaining days of the week. The two fasting days must not be 2 subsequent days. The basis of intermittent fasting is often linked to our ancestors who did not have access to food around the clock and instead had periods of feast and famine.

Another fasting plan is only eating within an eight to ten-hour window (i.e. only consuming food between 10am-7pm). This plan can be combined with intermittent fasting on the 5 days people eat regularly.

Caloric restriction diets mean eating less every day. They are generally harder to adhere to as they involve reducing energy intake every day by 20%–50%.

What does the research say?

There is a large body of research to support the health benefits of fasting, however most of it has been conducted in laboratory settings on animals from yeast and worms, to mice and monkeys; research data on humans are sparse.

Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting was tested in a study of 71 U.S adults, conducted over 3 months. Researchers found that fasting for five days a month (750 and 1,100 calories per fasting day) reduced their waistlines and total body fat, but not muscle mass, which is important.  The diet also reduced cardiovascular risk factors including blood pressure, signs of inflammation (measured by C-reactive protein levels), as well as fasting glucose and reduced levels of IGF-1, a hormone that affects metabolism. The intermittent fasting group lost an average of 2.6 kilograms and the control group, who didn’t change their eating habits remained at the same weight.

Is intermittent fasting effective?

Researchers explored the effects of intermittent caloric restriction on weight loss and various biomarkers among 107 overweight or obese woman. The researchers found that intermittent restriction was as effective as daily restriction for improving weight loss, insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, and reduction in leptin, total and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, lipids and other health biomarkers.  

Some tips to start?

1.    Make sure you have adequate and healthy nutrition between fasting times.

2.    Avoid sugary foods because they make you hungry.

3.    Be sure to stay hydrated.

4.    Exercise - Physical activity will not only prevent loss of muscle mass, which would be unhealthy but also keeps hunger at low levels.

Some groups of people who should not fast include:
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Children and teenagers
  • Type 1 diabetics
  • People taking medications that require food to be consumed at the same time
  • People recovering from surgery
  • Those with chronic stress (adrenal fatigue)
  • People with eating disorders.
  • People over 70 years of age

If you are unsure if fasting may be for you, consult your GP before you begin.

If you wish to receive regular information, tips, resources, reassurance and inspiration for up-to-date care, that is safe and sound and in line with latest research please subscribe here to receive my blog, or like Dr Andreas Obermair on Facebook. Should you find this article interesting, please feel free to share it. 

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