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Spotlight on American Institute for Cancer Research: Eating Lots of Plant-Based Foods Decreases Cancer Risk

Posted Dec 18 2008 8:13pm

I had the pleasure this morning of spending some time hanging out on the website of the American Institute for Cancer Research while doing some research.

If you're not aware of this group, it was founded in 1982 and has become, according to its website, "the nation's leading charity in the field of diet, nutrition and cancer."

Its goal is to foster research on diet and cancer prevention and educate the public about the results.

The organization makes some wise recommendations, in my opinion. Eating a lot of fiber-filled, nutrient-dense, plant-based foods is the best way to avoid cancer risk.But, of course, make sure not to take in too many calories, too.

The reason I'm bringing this up is that in the course of looking at a few things on their website, I ran across an intriguing article from dietitian Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN about "Glycemic Index Versus Calorie Control" about a recent research study. 

Collins write:

"A recent study punches a small hole in the popular theory that says a low glycemic index (GI) diet can influence our body’s hormones and make weight loss easier. According to this theory publicized by some researchers and diet books, we can avoid surges in our blood sugar, keep our insulin levels lower and put our bodies in a fat-burning mode, rather than a fat-storing mode, by eating foods with a low-GI value. Some research even suggests that controlling insulin levels with low-GI foods could help reduce the risk of certain cancers. But this new study shows that regulating your calorie intake could affect your weight more than a low glycemic diet."

While you may be inclined to just start counting calories, then check out Collins' conclusion, which basically recommends a fiber-dense, low GI diet with quality carbs as being the safest one to follow to decrease your risk of cancer.

"Even if glycemic load does affect weight control or cancer risk, it’s more than likely that calorie control has as much or greater influence. To incorporate both ideas in your eating habits, take appropriate portion sizes of mostly plant-based meals and snacks that include a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. This type of diet should have a fairly low glycemic load. This type of diet with its many nutrients and phytochemicals also offers the most proven protection against cancer, when combined with regular exercise for optimal weight control."

Also see this other article, The Confusing Science on Carbs, which ultimately points out that "the women who ate low GI foods lost more than twice as much body fat as women eating mainly high GI foods."

And it, too, points out:

"When you think about the concepts glycemic index or glycemic load, keep in mind that it is best to see your diet as a whole package, rather than individual pieces. You shouldn’t choose foods just because they have a low GI, because you may deprive yourself of fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals and overload your body with fat and protein. A mostly plant-based diet, which is associated with a lower risk for cancer and heart disease, tends to contain a lot of low GI foods and other beneficial characteristics like fiber. That’s why it’s the best choice for good health."

Right on.

While hanging out on the information-packed American Institute for Cancer Research website, I also found a wonderful press alert seeking to undo the damage of a misleading headline about a study. The organization ran this interesting item, "Carbs Cause Cancer." Stories Get It Wrong."

Special thanks to the hard workers atCalorieLab.com.

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