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.
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.
If you’re like the average American, more than half of your diet is filled with processed foods. Many of these foods are full of added sugar and fat and contribute to overweight and obesity. This matters for cancer prevention, because obesity is linked to higher risk, and a healthy diet links to lower risk for many common cancers, as well as other chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.