Surprising but true: The easiest way to cut your cancer risk is to lose a few pounds if you’re overweight. That’s the good news from a study just published in the journal Cancer Research. Researchers found that overweight or obese women who shed as little as 10 percent of their body weight lowered their cancer risk as well.
They did it by reducing their C-reactive protein (CRP), a measure of inflammation (a process that can spur cancer, regardless of where it exists in your body) by almost 42 percent. They also lowered their levels of interleukin-6, another inflammation biomarker, by about 24 percent. Shedding excess pounds, say the experts, can cut your risk for at least seven types of cancer: kidney, pancreas, colon, esophagus, rectum, uterine, and, in postmenopausal women, breast cancer.
The women started with the same goal: they wanted to lose 10 percent of their body weight within a year. “So this program was highly achievable and reproducible,” says Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD, director of the Prevention Center of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, who led the study. “We’re not talking about drastic weight loss.”
Participants ate between 1,200 and 2,000 calories a day, keeping their fat intake to less than 30 percent. The most successful dieters also exercised 225 minutes per week—important to note because a sedentary lifestyle makes us more susceptible to cancer. And, fans of natural healing will be happy to learn, losing weight lowered the women’s inflammation levels even more than if they had taken anti-inflammatory medications.
An eating plan similar to the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet will maximize your chance of lowering your inflammation levels—and, consequently, your risk of getting cancer and other inflammation-related illnesses, including heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. It’s important to avoid foods considered "energy-dense"—those that are high in added sugar, low in fiber and high-fat. Think of energy-dense as another way of saying “calorie-dense.” For instance, a 3.5-ounce apple, high in fiber and water content, is only 52 calories. But a milk chocolate bar that weighs the same 3.5 ounces is a whopping 520 calories—a much more calorie-dense choice.
You also want to avoid sugary drinks such as soft drinks and “juice-flavored” drinks. Even fruit juice, while delivering plenty of nutrition, also contains a lot of sugar, so it’s best to limit your juice to one glass a day. Reach for water, coffee and unsweetened tea whenever you can.
These are seven of the most effective inflammation-fighting foods out there. If you can build your diet around these healthy staples, and keep your sugars and processed foods to a minimum, you’ll have a head start in averting cancer.
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