Weight gain tends to creep up on us: studies show that young adults typically gain about a pound and half a year. This might not be noticeable from year to year, but over decades it can add up to significant extra weight if it goes unchecked. Gaining weight can be particularly harmful for young adults, perhaps because it’s tough to lose weight, meaning these individuals live with excess body fat for longer. Excess body fat is linked to many types of cancer and other chronic diseases.
The good news is that young adults may not need dramatic changes to diet and exercise to prevent weight gain, as a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests. This randomized clinical trial followed nearly 600 young adults ages 18-35 for an average of three years. About half of the participants had BMIs within the normal range, while the other half were already overweight or obese. The study compared two approaches—small, daily changes to diet and physical activity vs. more dramatic diet and exercise changes—to a control group.
AICR’s evidence shows that having too much body fat increases risk for eleven cancers. But researchers are looking at whether losing weight, once overweight, would lead to lower risk for these cancers. Now a new study from researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center shows how weight loss – through diet alone or diet and exercise – might change pro-cancer substances in the body.
The 12-month controlled trial of 439 healthy, postmenopausal women with overweight/obesity included 4 randomized groups: calorie restriction diet; moderate activity (goal of 3.75 hours per week), diet and exercise, and no intervention. Researchers wanted to see if these lifestyle changes would affect four substances in the body (biomarkers) that influence formation of blood vessels needed for tumor growth. Fat cell growth also requires a greater blood supply, so these biomarkers are also associated with increasing fat tissue.
Losing weight is hard. Keeping it off is harder. It’s definitely doable — we’ve written about successes here — but wouldn’t it be great if young adults could prevent gaining too much weight in the first place? A new multi-year study suggests that with daily weigh-ins and a few small changes, you can.
The study is among a growing area of research looking at ways to prevent weight gain, and it’s one of the largest randomized controlled studies on the topic to date. Previous research cited in the study suggests that young adults gain about 1.5 pounds per year. Over a couple decades, that adds up. And with two-thirds of US adults now overweight or obese, the research carries important potential for slowing the obesity epidemic. That, in turn, will play a role in cancer prevention. AICR research shows that carrying too much body fat is a cause of 11 cancers, including postmenopausal breast, ovarian and advanced prostate.
This study built upon prior research about how knowing and tracking your own weight can help with weight control.