Health Connections: A Broader View of Wellness

What do sports, heart health, cancer prevention, eating disorders and wellness have to do with each other?

I just returned from the 30th Annual Symposium of SCAN Vitruvian Man– the Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition dietetic practice group – a specialty group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which is the professional home of registered dietitians. SCAN has been on the cutting edge of nutrition since its inception, seeing the interconnections of these areas.

At this year’s SCAN Symposium, I was delighted to speak to a packed room about the connection of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  The three top diseases share numerous risk factors. And as research is increasingly showing, following recommendations that prevent cancer also reduce risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

During SCAN’s 30 years, the need to keep the big picture in mind has become even clearer among a variety of topics.

•    At one time, “wellness programs” focused primarily on heart health. Today, research identifies a broader vision of wellness, including how we can substantially reduce risk of cancer through eating and activity choices and a healthy weight. Wellness now refers to reducing people’s risk of disease and promoting their ability to live with vitality. Continue reading


“Eat Butter”? The Skinny On Saturated Fat

The cover story on this week’s issue of TIME Magazine is making waves – and driving sales at the nation’s checkout counters. The article traces the recent history of nutrition science, specifically the 20th-century vogue for health messages about cutting consumption of saturated fat. It does a nice job laying out how those messages were seized upon by food marketers to create today’s grocery aisles thronged with “fat-free” and “low-fat” processed foods.Tasty butter on wooden cutting board isolated on white

But ironically, in its effort to rehabilitate the reputation of saturated fat by showing how that food component has been isolated and demonized, the article effectively demonizes carbohydrates, blaming them for the same health conditions once widely linked with saturated fat.

It’s only the latest article in the popular press to do this. But while it makes a compelling read, singling out any one food or food component for blame oversimplifies a field of study marked by complexity and nuance.

As a cancer research and education organization, we should note that AICR’s expert reports and their updates have found no strong links between dietary fat itself –whether saturated or unsaturated – and cancer risk. Instead, it’s the fat we carry on our bodies that is strongly linked to increased risk for eight different cancers. Continue reading


Mediterranean Diet: Heart Healthy and Preventing Cancer

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-basil-nuts-olive-oil-bunch-fresh-bowl-walnuts-pepper-garlic-glass-bottle-served-white-wooden-table-see-series-image36664137If you’ve been trying to boost your heart health by eating a Mediterranean diet filled with olive oil, vegetables and nuts, and foregoing red and processed meat, a new report says you also may be lowering your risk for cancer and type 2 diabetes, all without losing weight.

A report of studies from PREDIMED, a large nutrition intervention trial, was published in the May issue of Advances in Nutrition. One study found that after almost 5 years, Mediterranean diet participants had 30% less cardiovascular disease than the control group. Another study found the Mediterranean diet groups had less type 2 diabetes, showed improvements in conditions of metabolic syndrome and had lower levels of markers for inflammation, all risk factors for cancer.

The Mediterranean diet, promoted as heart healthy, is rich in plant foods (such as vegetables, legumes, fruits and nuts), olive oil, moderate amounts of fish, yogurt, cheese, poultry and red wine, but little red and processed meats and sweets. In the PREDIMED study, researchers randomly assigned about 7500 participants to one of three groups: a Mediterranean diet (MeDiet) supplemented with olive oil, a MeDiet supplemented with nuts or they were instructed to follow a low fat diet. The PREDIMED study is a randomized, nutritional intervention trial conducted in Spain from 2003 to 2011. Continue reading