Issue 58 — December 15, 2010

Also in this issue:

  1. In Brief: Kids, Cookies and Cakes
  2. Imagine Eating, then Don’t
  3. Alcohol-Folate Increasing Oral Cancer Risk
  4. Weight Lifting May Help Breast Cancer Survivors

The 8 Most Popular AICR Stories of 2010

Grilling VeggiesThis past year saw a lot of innovative research, news, and healthful living strategies for cancer prevention and survivors. In case you missed any, here are the stories that attracted the most readers in 2010.

1. New evidence on colon cancer prevention from AICR/WCRF Continuous Update Project (CUP)

Two major reviews of research into the causes of colon cancer were presented at WCRF’s international conference on diet, physical activity, weight and cancer prevention. The complete CUP on colon cancer is scheduled for release in early 2011.

The first review added further evidence that carrying excess fat around the waist is particularly harmful. The second major review has confirmed that alcohol consumption increases risk of colon cancer—and suggests the increase in risk is larger for men than for women.

Read more about the Continuous Update Project.

2. It’s Never too Late to Prevent Cancer

Aging is the number one risk factor for cancer. In October, AICR launched a new campaign geared for adults over 50 announcing the latest findings on how diet and activity can play a role in healthy aging and preventing age-related cancers.

An AICR survey found that 1 in 3 adults over age 50 are unaware of the link between aging and cancer and many mistakenly believe it’s too late for them to take action.

Read more about the Never Too Late campaign.

3. That’s a Portion? Taking a Closer Look at Your Plate

Only mere decades ago, a typical bagel was 3 inches wide and had about 140 calories. Today, double that. From baked goods to restaurant meals, today’s portions are often double the recommended serving size.

This article from AICR eNews provides standard serving sizes and tips for healthy portion control.

With your gernerous support, AICR funds reserach in diet, physical activity and weight management. Please donate now.4. Cancer-Fighting Food Trends

At the beginning of 2010, AICR’s eNews published an article of the year’s upcoming food trends with one account predicting the top food trend would be more home cooking as people try to save money.

AICR’s recommendation to follow a mostly plant-based diet fit well with the predicted trend.

This year, the same organization – The Food Channel – has ten new predictions, with canning and men cooking more topping the list. You can read the whole list.

5. Grilling to Prevent Cancer

Researchers warn that grilling may pose some health risks because two cancer-causing compounds – heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – form when meats are charred or burnt. But people love to grill.

This article offered strategies to lower cancer risk when grilling and a vegetarian burger recipe.

6. Increase in US Obesity: Increase in Cancers

In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report finding that 2.4 million more Americans became obese between 2007 and 2009. The report stated that 26.7 percent of the US adult population, or 72.5 million people, are now obese.

Obesity plays a central role in many cancers. Those 72.5 million Americans face an increased risk for colorectal cancer, postmenopausal breast cancer, kidney cancer, esophageal cancer, endometrial cancer, pancreatic cancer and gallbladder cancer

Read more about the cancers related to excess body fat.

7. Study Links High Blood Sugar Levels to Cancer

At the start of the year, a new study suggested that having high blood sugar levels may increase the risk of cancer, independently of body weight. The Swiss study was published in PLoS Medicine.

Study results found that high blood sugar levels may increase risk of both developing cancer and also of dying from the disease; this association was stronger for women than for men. The strongest blood sugar-cancer links observed were for pancreatic cancer, particularly in women, and liver cancer in men.

But experts at the AICR cautioned that while the findings are interesting, more studies are needed to determine if lowering blood sugar levels (which can be done through eating a healthy diet, being physically active and staying a healthy weight) can reduce cancer risk.

8. Have Your “Cake” and Drink It Too

This unique Watermelon Cake recipe from the AICR Test Kitchen was a big hit in the summer. It omits flour, butter and eggs. Carved from watermelon, it is packed with phytochemicals and looks like an ordinary cake from the outside.

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In Brief

Kids, Cookies and Cakes

Boy with CakeCakes, cookies and other grain-based desserts are among the top calorie sources for children ages 2 to 18, according to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Pizza, soda, yeast breads and chicken dishes, along with the desserts, made up the top five sources of kids’ calories.

Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), study researchers found that nearly 40 percent of the children’s total energy came from empty calories: solid fat and added sugar.

Not surprisingly, the top sources of energy differed among age groups. For example, two to three year-olds were consuming most of their calories from milk, fruit juice, and pasta, while 14 to 18 year olds were taking in most of their calories from soda, pizza, and grain desserts.

Source: Reedy J, Krebs-Smith SM. “J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 Oct;110(10):1477-84 .” J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 Oct;110(10):1477-84.

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Research Roundup

Imagine Eating, Then Don’t

Woman Imagining CandyMerely imagining eating your favorite sweet repeatedly may help you eat less of it, suggests an intriguing new study published in Science. The study, which goes against the conventional wisdom that thinking about a desired food will increase the cravings and drive you to eat it, may be a simple method of helping people eat more healthfully.

For the study, scientists ran a series of five experiments testing whether imagining eating a food repeatedly – as opposed to one time – will sensitize a person to that food and thereby reduce consumption. In the first experiment, all participants imagined performing 33 repetitive actions, one at a time: One group imagined inserting 30 quarters into a laundry machine and then imagined eating 3 M&Ms, a second group imagined inserting three quarters into a laundry machine and then eating 30 M&Ms. A control group imagined inserting 33 quarters into a laundry machine (an action similar to eating M&M's). Afterwards, all participants ate freely from a bowl filled with M&Ms, being told it was a “taste test.” Participants who imagined eating 30 M&Ms ate significantly fewer than those in the other two groups.

Other experiments tested the possible causes of reduced consumption after imagining eating the food. For example, one test looked at if the effect was due to repeatedly thinking about the food as opposed to imagined consumption. Participants imagined eating 3 or 30 M&Ms, or imagined placing 3 or 30 M&Ms into a bowl. Then, they could eat as many M&Ms as they wanted from a bowl. Another test used cheese cubes or M&Ms, with each group imagining eating only one of the foods and then all participants offered as many cheese cubes as desired.

In all the tests, merely thinking about the food repeatedly or imagining the consumption of a different food did not significantly influence the actual consumption of the food that participants were given.

Source: Carey K. Morewedge, Young Eun Huh and Joachim Vosgerau. “Thought for Food: Imagined Consumption Reduces Actual Consumption.” Science, 10 December 2010: Vol. 330 no. 6010 pp. 1530-1533.

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Alcohol-Folate Interaction and Oral Cancer Risk

Head MusculatureA new study that strengthens the evidence linking high alcohol consumption to increased risk of oral cancer also suggests the risk of cancer is especially high among women with low folate intake. The study was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

The study pulled data from approximately 87,000 women participants of the Nurses Health Study who were asked about alcohol consumption and nutrient intake. The women were tracked for 26 years. Compared to women who did not drink, oral cancer risk increased almost two-fold among women drinking approximately 2 drinks or more per day (30 grams or more). The risk increased even more among women who were heavy drinkers and smokers.

And among women with low folate intake, women who drank high amounts of alcohol increased the risk of oral cancer over three fold compared to non-drinkers. Low folate was defined as below 350 ug/day; the recommended amount for women (and men) is 400 ug/day.

Although the mechanism by which low folate heightens the link between alcohol and oral cancer risk is currently unclear, note the authors, there are several possible reasons how it could occur, relating to disrupting DNA repair and synthesis.

Source: Shanmugham JR, et al. “Alcohol-folate interactions in the risk of oral cancer in women: a prospective cohort study.” Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Oct;19(10):2516-24.

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Weight Lifting May Help Breast Cancer Survivors

Middle Aged Woman Weight LiftingFirst, there was the news that weightlifting may help breast cancer survivors who already have the common – and painful – condition called lymphedema. Now the same team of researchers has found that weightlifting may play a key role in preventing the condition.

The study was published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Traditionally, breast cancer survivors at risk of lymphedema were advised to avoid weight-bearing exercises or even carrying children or heavy bags in the fear they would get the condition. But avoiding weightlifting means women can not reap the many benefits of weight-lifting exercises and it may keep them from exercise in general, which research suggests can prevent recurrence and improve survival.

Study researchers randomly split 154 breast cancer survivors without lymphedema into two groups: one group lifted weights and the other did not. The weight lifters were supervised for the first 13 weeks of the study. At the end of one year, fewer women in the weightlifting regimen developed the condition compared to the non-weight lifters (11% and 17%, respectively).

Among women who had five or more lymph nodes removed during surgery, the impact of the weightlifting intervention was even more.

Source: Schmitz, Kathryn H. et al. “Weight Lifting for Women at Risk for Breast Cancer–Related Lymphedema.” JAMA, Published online December 8, 2010.

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