Fat Connections for Cancer and Diabetes

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There’s not much good coming out of the continuing obesity epidemic but it has resulted in a lot of interesting research on fat tissue, such as a new study that suggests fat cells have a “tipping point.”

The study found that fat cells and tissues of obese people and animals can only store so much fat before a protein called SFRP1 in the fat cells trigger changes involved in metabolism. The protein may lead to factors related to the metabolic syndrome, many of which are linked to increased risk of cancer, along with diabetes and heart disease. For example, abdominal obesity and chronic inflammation are linked to increased risk of many cancers.

The study is published in the International Journal of Obesity Research, and you can read the abstract here.

SFRP1 levels appeared to increase as fat cells grew in volume, until levels peaked at about the point of mild obesity. After that, the researchers say in a press release, the way fat tissue is regulated changes significantly and in very obese people it may trigger metabolic syndrome.

Excess body fat is linked to seven types of cancer and is a shared risk factor between type 2 diabetes and cancer.

You can read about the link between diabetes (type 2) and cancer in an AICR eNews piece.

And for help on getting rid of that excess fat, here are some strategies.

Food Labels: Keep It Simple

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The Institute of Medicine released their first report on nutrition rating systems and symbols on the front of food packages.  Their recommendation:  highlight calories, saturated fat, trans fat and sodium.  These are what Americans over consume and the nutrients that lead to many chronic diseases.

Excess body fat causes several types of cancer and highlighting calories could play an important role in helping Americans be leaner.  Too much information can be confusing, so keeping it simple may be key.

Do you read labels?  For more information check out AICR’s Guide to the Nutrition Facts Label to learn more.

Is there a Diabetes-Cancer Connection?

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Research shows that diabetes is associated with an increased risk of several types of cancer. In fact, diabetes is linked to 3 of the 5 leading causes of cancer mortality in the United States.  Scientists and health professionals now understand that diabetes care must also include attention to cancer risk.

AICR has just released a new background paper “The Diabetes-Cancer Connection.”  It details research of the risk of diabetes and cancer and discusses steps to prevent both conditions as well as specific strategies for lifestyle changes.

Here is a brief summary of what you can do to lower risk for both diseases:

1.            Get to and maintain  a healthy weight.  For people with pre-diabetes, a 7% weight loss has been shown to reduce risk of diabetes.

2.            Participate in regular physical activity:

o   A sedentary lifestyle contributes to risk of type 2 diabetes and for those with the disease, regular moderate exercise (30 minutes at least 5 times weekly) improves blood sugar control.

o   For cancer risk, engage in at least 30 minutes (with the goal of 60 minutes) of moderate physical activity daily to lower risk of several cancers, including colorectal, endometrial and postmenopausal breast.

3.            Healthy diet

o   Eat a mostly plant-based diet for high fiber and a wide range of nutrients and phytochemicals

o   Select appropriate balance of healthy fats and a diet lower in energy density

o   Choose appropriate serving sizes and limit red and processed meat consumption

o   If you drink alcohol, limit to 1 drink per day for women, 2 for men.

If you are a health professional, you can read the full AICR InDepth by Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN, by joining the Health Professionals and Educators eCommunity here.