What’s Your Nutrition Literacy?

Health literacy is important to taking care of your health, and nutrition literacy is vital to choosing healthy foods for cancer prevention. But it’s not just a matter of reading comprehension, according to the author of a study presented as a poster at our research conference yesterday.

Try these:

1.Gibbs.NLitBCa.AICR-1.docx

2. If calories are equal for one serving of each food, which provides the most healthful nutrients overall?

A. Applesauce with no sugar added

B. an appleGibbs.NLitBCa.AICRNU

C. applesauce with no sugar added is about equal to an apple in nutrition

3.. If you are trying to eat fewer than 500 mg of sodium per meal, how many cups of this food (Nutrition label) can you eat if you eat nothing else at the meal?

A. 1 cup

B. 2 cups

C. 3 cups

D. 4 cups

 

 

 

 

 

Those were three of the questions used by Heather Gibbs, PhD, at the University of Kansas Medical Center. “Literacy is a functional skill, so nutrition literacy is different than health literacy because we’re also looking at what knowledge and skills are needed in order for people to choose a healthy diet,” said Gibbs.

The three arms of her study included a group of 25 survivors who were currently in a weight-loss program; another group of 30 who were not in a program; and 17 women who were at high risk for the disease but not survivors.

Gibbs remembered one participant who read a question about finding a point of information on a Nutrition Facts label. “She read the question out loud perfectly,” Gibbs says. “But she didn’t understand how to find the answer on the label.”

Other skills Gibbs cites are evaluating fresh foods for quality, such as how much meat was marbled with fat or what colors of vegetables indicated. Participants were also asked whether they used the information on the front of labels, where marketing terms like “natural” or “organic” might make them assume a product is healthy for them; or what information they looked for if they were trying to manage their weight.

The hope is to develop a tool to help dietitians use their time educating people about the things they don’t know about or understand, says Gibbs.


Mammograms: Putting Headlines in Context

As an organization that focuses on helping people reduce their risk and survive cancer, we’re getting a lot of questions about a major study released this week on mammograms. And if you’ve read about the study questioning the benefits of mammograms, there’s a good chance you’re confused.mammogram_dreamstime_xs_21847816

The Canadian study involving about 90,000 women ages 40-59 was published this week in the British Medical Journal. The study spanned 25 years and during that time about half the women received regular mammograms and annual breast exams; the other half only had the breast exams.

The study found that whether the women received regular mammograms or not, a similar number of women died from breast cancer over the years.

The value of regular mammogram screening has been controversial for awhile– five years ago the United States Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF) changed its guidelines, recommending that regular mammogram screening begin at age 50 every two years rather than age 40 every year. As we wrote at that time, AICR’s recommendations relate to the prevention of cancer through diet, weight and physical activity; for screenings, like mammography, AICR’s materials rely on the National Cancer Institute recommendations.

Your own decision about mammography is best made in consultation with your health care provider who can help you weigh the risks and benefits based on your history and personal risk factors.

For more on the study and perspectives from other organizations, here’s a CNN article.

For prevention, AICR’s expert report and it’s continuous updates have found that lifestyle matters. There are specific steps you can take to lower your risk for breast cancers.  For postmenopausal breast cancers, for example:

  • aim to be physically active at least 30 minutes every day,
  • get to and stay a healthy weight
  • avoid alcoholic beverages or if you do drink, limit to 1 drink a day.

AICR estimates that about 38% of breast cancer cases – about 90,000 every year – in the U.S. could be prevented by following those recommendations.

Learn more about the research on reducing risk for breast and other cancers.


From the Field: Working with Survivors for Stronger Bones

dreamstime_xs_12022463Yesterday at our research conference, one popular session focused on bone health for cancer survivors. More than 40 million adults in the US have or are at high risk for osteoporosis, a bone weakening disease.

Often due to some cancer therapies, survivors are at higher risk for bone loss and osteoporosis than the general population.

Breast and prostate cancer treatments may cause low estrogen or androgen levels, two hormones important for strong bones.

Between sessions, I talked with several oncology dietitians about how they work with survivors on bone health in their centers and clinics. While not unanimous, most RDs said their patients are very aware of their increased risk for bone loss and receive DEXA screening — a test for bone mineral density — and treatment, including diet and lifestyle prescriptions as well as appropriate medications. Continue reading