Cancer is primarily a disease of age. The older we get the higher our risk for cancer along with other chronic diseases. Now a study published last week sheds light on how our activity habits throughout life make a difference in preventing diseases such as cancer, and living healthier as we age.
The study looked at how physical fitness in mid-life linked to the onset of chronic illness. It was published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
“Previous studies have shown a link with fitness and an extension of lifespan but there’s almost no data looking at fitness and non-fatal outcomes,” said senior author Jarrett Berry, MD, MS, an assistant professor of internal medicine at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “We wanted to create a proxy for healthy aging in a large dataset, and if you have fewer chronic conditions, you are aging more healthfully.”
Berry and his colleagues first gathered fitness data from almost 19,000 participants of the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study. Participants were healthy when they entered the study in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, and the study categorized their fitness levels through a treadmill test.
Researchers then merged the fitness data with participants’ Medicare claims that spanned an average of 26 years. The study focused on claims for eight chronic conditions, including the lung and colorectal cancers. (One reason these cancers were selected is because they affect both men and women.) Other illnesses the study looked at included stroke, diabetes, congestive heart failure, Alzheimer’s and kidney disease.
By the end of the study period, approximately 2,500 participants had died and the researchers looked at the last five years of their lives.
Both among men and women, participants who were more fit in midlife had a decreased risk of developing colon cancer, diabetes or any of the other chronic conditions later in life.
Among those who did develop a disease, individuals who were fitter in middle age lived their final five years with fewer chronic conditions. The findings suggest that fitness compresses the disease into a shorter amount of time at the end of life, giving people a longer healthier life, says Berry.
“We saw a link between fitness and the delay of chronic conditions,” said Berry. “On average, people who had low fitness in mid-life, spent more of their time with more chronic disease than people with higher fitness levels.”
The delay of chronic disease was highest among those who were the most fit – those categorized in the fifth of the five fitness categories. Yet the most prominent change in decreased risk was between the lowest fitness level category and those slightly more fit, in the category right above.
“What this shows is that the healthy benefit is greatest for those who are sedentary who initiate some exercise,” said Berry. “It’s not going from a couch potato to marathon runner, the greatest benefit comes from coach potatoes who get off the couch – when you move from a sedentary to a modest activity level.”
The study did not account for other factors that may play a role in disease, such as genetics or diet. It did account for obesity, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, alcohol use and smoking.
“We focus on the present… thinking more about time and age is an incredibly important concept that I think has big implications,” said Berry.
This study is part of a growing area of research spotlighting how diet, activity and other factors even in mid-life still affect risk of getting cancer and other chronic diseases. The research suggests that lifestyle habits throughout life can play a key role in cancer risk.
“We know colon cancer and some other cancers can take decades to develop so it makes sense that what people are eating and how much they are moving throughout their lives can affect the development of cancer later in life,” said AICR Director of Research Susan Higginbotham, PhD, MPH, RD.
Government guidelines for physical activity recommend adults should be aerobically active at a moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes per week and do muscle strengthening activities at least two days a week. For cancer prevention, AICR recommends adults be active at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes a day.
Researchers are also looking into how lifestyle habits from infancy to adolescence affect future cancer risk. Read Preventing Cancer: The Life Course Approach for more.
Almost half of Americans report drinking at least a glass of soda every day, with one of every five Americans drinking two or more, according to a new Gallup poll conducted last month.
The poll also found that two-thirds of Americans drink at least one cup of coffee a day, a figure that remains unchanged from a previous 1999 survey. This Gallup poll was the first measure of daily soda consumption.
In all, 48 percent of Americans surveyed said they drank at least one soda per day; 7 percent said they drink four or more glasses daily. The poll did not differentiate between sugary and diet sodas.
The poll is based on telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults throughout the country.
AICR’s expert report and its updates link drinking sugary sodas to being overweight and obese, which are linked to increased risk of seven cancers.
Every year, an estimated 10 to 40 percent of overweight women lose and then regain that weight, an exhausting cycle of yo-yo dieting that researchers have hypothesized may harm women metabolism and their ability to lose weight over the long term.
Not so, finds a new study published online in the journal Metabolism.
The study looked at the effects of a healthy weight loss program among 439 overweight and sedentary post-menopausal women. Some of the women had a longtime history of yo-yo dieting – referred to by researchers as weight cycling – and others did not. The women were randomly assigned to one of four groups: one group ate fewer calories; a second group exercised; a third group ate fewer calories and exercised; the last group served as the control, receiving no intervention.
About 20 percent of the women had gone through at least three bouts of weight cycling, having lost 20 or more pounds then gaining it back each time. Another 25 percent of the women had lost and regained at least 10 pounds multiple times. On average, the weight cyclers were about 20 pounds heavier when they entered the study compared to the women who had not yo-yo dieted.
After one year, there was no difference among the weight cyclers and non-weight cyclers when it came to weight loss and program participation. The women who dieted-only and dieted-with-exercise lost an average of 10 percent of their starting weight. The women in these groups showed no difference from the non-cyclers with regard to percentage of body fat lost and lean muscle mass gained. Blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and levels of hormones such as leptin and adiponectin also did not differ significantly among the cyclers and non-weight cyclers.
Source: Mason C, Foster-Schubert KE, Imayama I, Xiao L, Kong A, Campbell KL, Duggan CR, Wang CY, Alfano CM, Ulrich CM, Blackburn GL, McTiernan A. “History of weight cycling does not impede future weight loss or metabolic improvements in postmenopausal women.” Metabolism. 2012 Aug 13. [Epub ahead of print]
Eating relatively high amounts of red and processed meats is conclusively linked to increased risk of colorectal cancer, and one possible cause may be due to the carcinogens formed from cooking meats at high temperatures. Now, a study published in Carcinogenesis links eating too much red meat cooked at high temperatures with advanced prostate cancer.
Study researchers looked at data from approximately 2,000 participants of the California Collaborative Prostate Cancer Study. About half of the men were diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.
The study did not find a link between overall consumption of red or processed meat and prostate cancer risk. But men who ate the highest amounts of red meats cooked at high temperatures and well-done red meats had a 30 to 40 percent increased risk of advanced prostate cancer compared to those who consumed the least. Researchers also found that men with diets high in baked poultry had a lower risk of advanced prostate cancer, while consuming pan-fried poultry was associated with increased risk.
Charring meat and cooking it at high temperatures forms heterocyclic amines (HCAs), a possible carcinogen that may play role in the increased risk seen in this study, the authors conclude.
Sources: Joshi AD, Corral R, Catsburg C, Lewinger JP, Koo J, John EM, Ingles S, Stern MC. “Red meat and poultry, cooking practices, genetic susceptibility and risk of prostate cancer: results from the California Collaborative Prostate Cancer Study.” Carcinogenesis. 2012 Jul 20. [Epub ahead of print]
Alcohol drinkers who want to drink more slowly – and possibly less – may want to look to their glass, suggests a new study from the United Kingdom published last week in PLoS ONE.
The study focused on glass shape, having approximately 160 participants drink from either a curved or straight glass. Previous research has found that glass shape can play with our sense of perception, making us think we are drinking more in a taller glass than squatter glass, for example.
In this study participants were randomly given a soft drink or lager, a type of beer, from either a curved or straight glass. Whatever they were drinking, half were served a full 12-ounce glass and the rest a half-full glass.
During the session, those who were drinking lager from a full curved-glass drank about 60 percent slower than those who had a straight glass. There was no difference in drinking rate when the drink was non-alcoholic
Another test found that participants have trouble gauging the halfway point of shaped glasses. This test showed the same participants images of the two glass shapes containing varying volumes of liquid and asked the viewers to judge when the glasses were more or less half full.
The findings suggest that drinking behavior is in part based on the perception of how much we have already consumed. The effect in alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinking behavior may be because more people think of pacing themselves when drinking an alcoholic beverage.
Alcohol is linked to increased risk for cancers of the colorectum, breast, esophagus, mouth and pharynx.
Source: Angela S. Attwood, Nicholas E. Scott-Samuel, George Stothart, Marcus R. Munaf. Glass Shape Influences Consumption Rate for Alcoholic Beverages. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (8): e43007.
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