Week of April 2, 2012
Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

AICR HealthTalk
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: How can I keep food costs under control when trying to lose weight?

A: It's important to build an eating pattern that helps you lose weight, maintain your new, lower weight and works for you economically. You can boost the foods that help with weight loss such as fruits and vegetables without breaking the food budget. Choose produce that's in season, buying just the amount you need, and select frozen produce when it's less expensive than fresh. Cut back on foods and beverages that don't do anything for you nutritionally, including soft drinks and artificially sweetened water, teaching yourself to drink more plain water or homemade ice tea. Weight loss diets that rely on packaged meals and drinks or exotic produce can increase food expenses, but are not necessary for success. Special "diet" cookies and treats also are not necessary and often are not any lower in calories. For "treats," select the ones you eat now that you enjoy most, and include them in small portions occasionally and at times you will truly sit and savor them. By doing that, you've cut calories and saved money. You can also cook smaller amounts and split your meal at restaurants in half and save for lunch the next day. These are smart strategies that make it easier to reduce your portion sizes and save money, too.

Q: Can eating habits reduce development of colon polyps?

A: Polyps (benign tumors) are the starting point for almost all colon cancer, and research shows a strong link between colon cancer and diet, physical activity and weight control. In several studies, higher consumption of most vegetables (especially cooked green vegetables), fruit in general (and berries and dried fruit in particular), and legumes (like kidney and garbanzo beans) were each linked to 25 to 33 percent lower risk of colon polyps compared to diets that included the least. Some research also shows tendencies for protection from regular consumption of cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli), onions and garlic, or whole soy foods (such as tofu). These provide dietary fiber, which may reduce risk of colorectal cancer through several potential paths, and folate (a B vitamin that in moderate amounts seems to protect our DNA), as well as a wide variety of antioxidant phytochemicals. Limiting red and processed meat seems to lower risk of polyps, although there are few studies. Excess weight, especially around the waist, is strongly linked to increased risk of both colon cancer and polyps. For example, in a study of French women, being overweight increased polyp risk by 34 percent and obesity by 75 percent. Weight gain that averaged over one pound yearly was linked with a 23 percent increase of colon polyps. Laboratory studies suggest that omega-3 fat, found in naturally fatty fish like salmon and albacore tuna, could decrease inflammation in the colon and reduce polyp formation, but human studies are still needed to confirm that. Besides eating habits, an analysis of 20 studies links regular physical activity with almost a 20 percent lower risk of adenomas (benign tumors), just as it is linked with lower risk of colorectal cancer.

Our Mission: The American Institute for Cancer Research champions the latest and most authoritative scientific research from around the world on cancer prevention and survival through diet, weight and physical activity, so that we can help people make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.

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