Research news and views on preventing and surviving cancer
Author: Alice RD
Alice G. Bender, MS, RDN, is the Head of Nutrition Programs at AICR. She helps put the science of cancer prevention by providing tips and tools to choose nutritious and delicious foods. Alice has guided thousands of individuals to healthier lives through diet changes and choices.
When you eat brown rice, oatmeal or 100% whole wheat bread, you know it’s 100% whole grains. Choose pizza, wheat bread, or a breakfast cereal however, and it’s not always clear if you’re getting a whole grain food.
Research shows that whole grains are an important part of a cancer preventive diet. AICR’s continuous update report on colorectal cancer found that foods containing fiber, such as whole grains, help lower risk for this cancer. And whole grains boost health in other ways, including promoting heart health.
But how much whole wheat or oats, for example, do you need in a bread or cereal to say it is a whole grain?
That’s the problem, say experts. There isn’t a global standard definition for what makes a whole grain food for food labeling. Some countries in Europe have their own distinct label guidelines for whole grain foods, and the US doesn’t have one at all, so now a group of scientists is working to find a common definition. Defining what a whole grain food is can help you can more easily identify and compare foods that contain whole grains. Read more… “What is a whole grain food? Researchers have an idea”
The evidence is not clear on how – or even whether – snacking, breakfast eating or meal size links to weight. A large study adds new data to this body of research suggesting that fewer daily meals and snacks can help prevent weight gain, at least for this healthy group. For cancer prevention, staying a healthy weight is key to reducing risk for many common cancers like endometrial, postmenopausal breast and colorectal.
The authors analyzed data from the Adventist Health Study that includes over 50,000 North American adults. At the beginning of the study, participants reported their height and weight, as well as health habits like exercise, sleep and television watching. They also reported their eating habits via 24 hour recalls and a food frequency questionnaire.
The participants – members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church – tend to be more health-conscious, nonsmokers, mostly nondrinkers and eat less meat than most Americans.
Researchers used this data to determine how many meals – including snacks and breakfast – participants ate, and which meals were typically largest. They calculated participants’ weight changes by comparing Body Mass Index (BMI) at the beginning and end of the study.
An average of 7 years later, the study found:
For participants eating 1 or 2 meals a day, their BMI decreased in comparison to those eating 3 meals per day.
If you’re like many people you may think that eating a healthy diet means higher food costs, whether you eat out or cook. But a recent study finds that people who cook more dinners save $2 a day on food – and they have significantly healthier diets than those who cook less often.
This matters for cancer prevention. A healthy diet – one with plenty of vegetables, whole grains and beans, low in sugar and added fat – provides cancer protective nutrients and helps you get to and stay a healthy weight, an important step to lowering cancer risk. Obesity increases risk for many cancers, including colorectal, endometrial and liver.