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Increase Physical Fitness and Follow a Plant-based Diet to Lower Your Cancer Risk

Posted Apr 20 2010 5:33am
You may recall from my previous blog that I recently attended the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health Fitness Summit here in Austin, TX about a week ago.  I was able to attend many useful sessions on nutrition and fitness, including one on how to lower cancer risk through physical activity and diet.  Because April is Cancer Awareness Month, I’d like to highlight some of the recommendations from that session.

This workshop gave us 10 recommendations for lowering your overall Cancer risk.  These recommendations come from the second World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF)/American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) Expert report Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective.  You can access the complete report here .

Eight of the recommendations are for everyone and the last two are for special populations (women who are breast feeding and cancer survivors).  Listed below are the recommendations:

  1. “Be as lean as possible within the normal range of body weight.” “Normal range” refers to ranges defined by national governments or the World Health Organization.  For example, using BMI the lowest “normal” BMI is 19, which is calculated by dividing your weight in kg by your height in meters squared.

  2. “Be physically active as part of everyday life.”  This is defined as at least 30 minutes daily of moderate activity, which is equated to brisk walking.  For people who are already fit, 60 minutes daily of moderate activity or 30 minutes daily of vigorous activity is recommended.
  3. “Limit consumption of energy-dense foods.  Avoid sugary drinks.”  Energy-dense foods are defined as foods that have 225-275 calories per 100 grams.  This recommendation also refers specifically to “processed foods,” not naturally energy-dense foods such as nuts/seeds. 
  4. “Eat mostly foods of plant origin.”  This is specifically referring to getting a majority of your calories from fruits and non-starchy vegetables, although starchy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are also recommended.
  5. “Limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meat.” Red meat is defined as beef, pork, lamb, and goat from domesticated animals including that contained in processed foods.  No more than 18 ounces per week is what is recommended.  “Processed meat” is defined as meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or addition of chemical preservatives, and the recommendation is ideally to avoid completely. 
  6. “Limit alcoholic drinks.”  This means two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women (which takes into account the possible cardio protective benefits of alcohol). 
  7. “Limit consumption of salt.  Avoid moldy cereals (grains) or pulses (legumes).”  Aim for less than 2.4 grams of sodium daily.
  8. “Aim to meet nutritional needs through diet alone.”  For most people, supplements are not recommended specifically for cancer prevention. 
  9. First special population recommendation: “Mothers to breastfeed.”  Children should be breast fed for six months. 
  10. Second special population recommendation: “Cancer Survivors: Follow the recommendations for cancer prevention.” 

If you visit the website and download “Chapter 12” (which gives details on the recommendations), you will see a chart that shows different types of cancer and diet and lifestyle factors and their effect on lowering or increasing the risk of developing those specific types of cancer.  Of all the items listed, alcohol and body fatness had the biggest impacts on increasing cancer risks.  Alcohol can increase the risk of developing 5 different types of cancer, and excess body fat can increase the risk of developing 6 different types of cancer. 

Physical activity and consuming fruits and non-starchy vegetables had the most impact on decreasing risk of developing cancer (3, 4, and 3 different types of cancers, respectively). 

So make sure you follow these recommendations! 
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