Popcorn: Hero or Villain?

If you’ve been following the health news over this past week, you’ve heard two conflicting messages about the humble, quintessentially American snack, popcorn.

It’s a conflict straight out of a superhero flick: Yesterday, popcorn was a caloric villain determined to wreak havoc on our innocent waistlines. Today, it’s a nutritional champion, valiantly defending our bodies from damage.

So which is it?

Earlier this month, in a bid to urge lawmakers to require movie theaters to list calorie counts on menu boards, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) launched an awareness campaign. In its materials, such as this video, CSPI singled out one alarming data point: A medium popcorn without added butter from Regal Cinemas weighs in at an astonishing 1200 calories. That’s the equivalent of four fast-food cheesburgers and 5 slices of Papa John’s pepperoni pizza. Continue reading


AICR Fact Check: Fiber and Cancer?

Heard a great story about fiber on NPR this morning, all about how food manufacturers add fiber to things like sugary cereals and white bread so they can make claims about fiber and health on the packaging.

We’re pleased that the story makes the point that foods that are naturally high in fiber — vegetables and fruits, whole grains and beans — are better options, but then we heard something that brought us up short:

So are these fiber-fortified foods actually making you healthier? This question turns out to be one of those places where scientists know a lot less than you may think they do. For example, a lot of people think that fiber will help protect you against colon cancer. But so far, that link is not conclusive.

In this case, it’s “a lot of people” who are right, and NPR who’s … well, not wrong, exactly, but imprecise.

Because the evidence that diets high in fiber can and do protect against colorectal cancer is not only strong, it’s just gotten stronger. And with February being Cancer Prevention Month, it’s a good opportunity to remind people of the hard science showing that they can protect themselves from colorectal cancer.  Continue reading


Hot Dogs, Processed Meat & Colon Cancer Risk: Are Nitrates Responsible?

Last week, at the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) conference, Dr. Sidney Mirvish presented data from a study which he interprets as strongly suggestive that nitrates are not the agent responsible for higher risk of colon cancer among those whose diets are high in processed meats like hot dogs.

Several in the media and the meat industry are hailing the data as casting doubt on the link between diets high in these foods and colon cancer.

Here’s our take, based on the comprehensive analyses of the global scientific literature found in the AICR/WCRF Expert Report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, and our 2011 Continuous Update Project: Colorectal Cancer.

AICR FACT CHECK: NITRATES AND COLORECTAL CANCER

1.  Nitrates are only one possible reason for the observed increased risk associated with diets high in processed meats like hot dogs, cold cuts, bacon and sausage.  You can find more information in this AICR leaflet.

2.  The findings of an individual, as-yet-unpublished study cannot change the clear and convincing evidence that AICR and WCRF have evaluated, which shows that diets featuring processed meat increase colorectal cancer risk.

3.  We at AICR welcome the kind of research that seeks to identify the agent or agents in processed meat responsible for the increased risk. Once this study, and others like it, are published and peer-reviewed, they will be added to our Continuous Update Project (CUP) — the largest scientific database on diet and cancer risk in the world — and contribute to our understanding of this issue. They may even ultimately lead to development of processed meats that can be enjoyed without cancer concerns.

4.  In the meantime, however, hot dogs and other processed meats remain foods to reserve for special occasions.