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Global Network

Week of August 27, 2012
Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

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

Q: I was gradually losing weight for about six months, and now I seem stuck at a plateau. Is it true that this is probably because of slowed metabolism?

A: Some evidence shows that people may end up with a major drop in metabolic rate if they have lost large amounts of weight very quickly by doing hours of intense exercise daily while also reducing calories dramatically. But a group of experts that reviewed the literature in energy balance found that this is probably not the most common reason for the weight loss plateau so many experience. The consensus of the expertss said that although calorie needs do decrease with gradual weight loss, it is not enough to stop weight loss until a person has followed a reduced calorie diet for about three to five years. More likely, the authors say, people who see a plateau at six to eight months are not continuing their initial changes in calorie consumption.Try keeping a detailed food record for a week. Include everything you eat and drink other than water; include even odds and ends outside of meals, and note all portion sizes. Often, the act of keeping a food record actually changes eating behavior. For more help, review your record with a registered dietitian who can put the information in perspective by comparing it to your calorie and nutrient needs. Or you might start by entering your food record into an online program or smart phone app that tallies what you’ve eaten and compares it to very general recommendations for weight loss in someone of your age, weight and gender. Sometimes it’s a few small changes that gradually creep in keeping calorie consumption too high to allow weight loss. Don’t take extreme measures; look for a few smart calorie cuts you think you can continue long-term while eating balanced, mostly plant-based foods that keep hunger satisfied.

Q: What is leaky gut syndrome? Do eating habits affect it?

A: Normal intestinal walls function like a border patrol, allowing passage of healthy nutrients and denying entry to foreign substances. A healthy intestinal lining is composed of cells adhering tightly to each other, absorbing only small, digested food molecules. In leaky gut syndrome, damage to the intestinal wall causes these cells to separate slightly, allowing incompletely digested food particles and bacteria to “leak” through the gut into the bloodstream. This seems to trigger the immune system to release substances causing an allergic reaction and widespread inflammation. Research suggests leaky gut syndrome might lead to food allergies, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and even diabetes and obesity. Factors identified so far that may weaken the normal gut barrier and lead to leaky gut syndrome include major intestinal surgery or radiation, side effects of certain medications, chronic inflammation and excess alcohol consumption. More research is needed to understand how eating habits might help avoid or resolve leaky gut syndrome. However, there is potential for help from the same eating habits recommended to fight inflammation, promote growth of healthy gut bacteria and reduce cancer risk. That is: reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular physical activity and focusing eating habits around whole plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. Foods like yogurt and kefir that contain probiotics – health-promoting bacteria such as lactobacillus and bifidobacteria – are also under study as potentially beneficial.


The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $100 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.


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