Calories or Carbs? Weight, Health and Cancer Prevention

A calorie is a calorie – eat too many and you’ll gain weight; eat less and you’ll lose weight. Sounds simple, but a New York Times article by two obesity researchers is making headlines, and they question whether focusing on calories alone is really the answer for weight loss. It’s an important issue because obesity links to eight different cancers.Healthy versus unhealthy.

Their hypothesis, published last Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, proposes that the driving force for obesity in America is because we eat too many refined carbohydrates – chips, cakes, soft drinks, sugary foods and refined grains – rather than just too many calories. They say eating these foods can lead to higher insulin levels and an environment in our body that promotes fat storage. Their proposal that type of food is more important than total calories for both becoming obese and for losing weight is interesting, but does need more research.

What research is clear on – we know that cutting back on sugary foods and drinks and other refined carbohydrate foods is one important strategy in a total program for health and weight loss. And substituting whole plant foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains can help lower cancer risk. Continue reading


BMI: A Starting Point for a Healthy Weight

The health risks of obesity have been in the news lately, including in our latest report showing a link between obesity and ovarian cancer risk. The stories have sparked a lot of conversation about BMI (Body Mass Index), a number used to easily determine a person’s body fatness. Young man measuring his weight on weighing scale in clinic

Maybe you know your own BMI. But what is BMI and what does it mean to you?

The formula for BMI is:
weight (kilograms) divided by height (meters)2
or
weight (pounds) divided by height (inches)2  x 703

A BMI of 18.5 – 24.9 is considered healthy; 25-29.9 overweight and 30 and above obese.

BMI is very useful for studies looking at a large number of people and trying to determine if, on average, BMI links to disease risk or health status in some way. But for individuals, BMI is a starting point to determine whether your weight is in the healthy range for you. Continue reading


Obesity and Breast Cancer Survival: Talking with Anne McTiernan

Today’s issue of Cancer Research Update highlights a new analysis of the research suggesting that obesity links to poorer survival for women diagnosed with breast cancer. The research adds to a complex and evolving field of research on lifestyle and survivorship.Tiernan photo

The findings in this paper add to the body of knowledge, but they are not proof that weight loss in overweight or obese women will improve survival, says Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD, one of the authors of the new paper and a Continuous Update Project expert panelist.

Here, Dr. McTiernan — the Director of the Prevention Center at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center — talks about the study and what it means for breast cancer survivors.

Q: This study is the first to look at BMI pre- and post-diagnosis, and 12 months following diagnosis. Why was it important to look at these three points?

A: While it’s interesting to know what effect BMI before diagnosis has, women want to know what they can do now, for their future. So it’s important to look at the post-diagnosis period. Continue reading