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Week of May 21, 2012
Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

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

Q: Are other berries as rich in antioxidants as blueberries, or should I just stick to blueberries every day?

A: Go for variety! All berries are high in antioxidant compounds and vitamin C. Studies suggest that blueberries have good potential as a cancer-fighting, health-promoting food. But since strawberries come into season a little sooner, start there. One cup of strawberries provides enough vitamin C to meet current recommendations for a whole day, and eating strawberries has been shown to increase blood levels of vitamin C and total antioxidant capacity. Strawberries provide compounds called ellagitannins and ellagic acid, which bacteria in our digestive tract convert to other compounds. In laboratory studies those compounds show antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and direct anti-cancer effects. We don't currently have, and may never have, large human studies that isolate effects of berries, especially particular types of berries, on cancer risk. Research does suggest, though, that compounds in a variety of berries could play many roles in cancer prevention. Antioxidant protection from vitamin C and phytochemicals appears to protect DNA from damage and enhance its repair. Beyond that, berry phytochemicals seem able to inhibit carcinogens and stimulate self-destruction of abnormal cells. Enjoy your favorite berries in season when costs are lowest and you'll be rewarded with nutritional variety and fresh flavor.

Q: Is yoga enough exercise to help me lose weight?

A: Some studies do suggest that yoga could play a role, although results vary depending on the type of yoga. A study of six healthy young adults who did the Sun Salutation (a series of 12 poses repeatedly going from standing to floor) estimated that they burned about 230 calories in a half-hour session. That's comparable to what the average person burns in the same period on a brisk walk. Since these people weighed less than 135 pounds on average, a person who weighs more would likely burn somewhat more calories. In addition, researchers found that as these subjects were doing this more actively moving form of yoga, they were working out at a heart rate that could improve cardiovascular fitness if done regularly. Yoga that involves more sitting and less movement would burn fewer calories and have less effect on cardiovascular fitness. Aside from any weight impact, yoga increases flexibility, improves balance and relieves stress. Depending on the type of yoga and your health goals, it may or may not offer all the strength-building exercise you need to maintain body muscle. Yoga can be an excellent choice of exercise. We tend to get the most benefit from a mixture of different types of activity, each providing different benefits, so it would be ideal to also add in some regular walking, swimming, biking or other type of aerobic activities. Note that research clearly shows that physical activity plays a major role in maintaining weight. For weight loss, almost everyone also needs to make some changes in eating habits to decrease calorie consumption.


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.

We have contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. Find evidence-based tools and information for lowering cancer risk, including AICR’s Recommendations for Cancer Prevention, at www.aicr.org.


 

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