The Fitness Factor

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A lot of this issue’s Cancer Research Update focuses on the benefits of physical activity for cancer prevention, which is a relatively new area of study.

It’s clear that being physically active helps us lose and/or control weight. Weight control is the obvious reason to be active, now that research shows excess body fat causes seven different cancers.

Less is known about exactly how physical activity helps fight cancer independent of weight.  Studies show that it does, but can physical activity reduce cancer risk regardless of the number on the scale?

To learn more, read the full story in CRU.

And if you want a mental health boost as well as a physical one, try exercising outside. A new study in Environmental Science & Technology found that just five minutes of “green exercise” per day improves mood and self -esteem. Green exercise is any activity that takes place outdoors, such as a backyard garden or walk in a park.

With warmer weather, there are precious few excuses not to add some fun activity into your day. AICR has plenty of “Moving More” strategies here. If you have a fitness tip of your own, please share.

Serve Up a Healthy Weight

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Forget serving bowls.  If you’re trying to cut back to lose some weight, a simple strategy may help in a big way.

According to a Cornell University study titled “Serve Here; Eat There,” if you leave the serving dishes off the table you may eat less.

The researchers studied the amount of food 78 adults ate under different conditions.  They served some meals from the kitchen (“plated the food”) and allowed serving dishes to be on the table at other meals.

They found that people refilled their plates fewer times if food was served from the kitchen.  Overall, people ate 20% fewer calories (men ate about 29% less) when serving dishes were absent from the table.

Finding healthy ways to reduce extra body fat could help Americans reduce cancer cases by 100,000 every year according to AICR.  Learning to eat smaller portions and limiting “seconds” is one strategy experts say works.

So to lower your risk for cancer and other chronic disease, try this at home: Serve the food in the kitchen and leave the serving dishes off the table – with one exception.  Leave vegetable serving bowls on the table.  You may find you and your family emptying the vegetable bowl rather than filling up on pasta or meat.

How do you serve your meals?

Hot Peppers May Help Burn Calories

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Spicy-food lovers take note: The same process that leads to beads of sweat forming when biting into a chili pepper may actually increase energy expenditure, if the findings from a preliminary (and small) study hold up.

Researchers from University of California, Los Angeles’ Center for Human Nutrition presented their findings at the ongoing Experimental Biology conference.

The stuff that gives chili peppers that searing heat-inducing zing is called capsaicin. (It sets off the pain receptors on our tongue.) In the lab, capsaicin has shown cancer preventive properties; you can read about the research here, and find out how to squash that burning sensation if it’s too hot.

The UCLA scientists studied the non-burning version of capsaicin, called DCT for short. Thirty-four participants drank a low-calorie liquid meal replacement for 28 days. The participants were divided into groups: one group took a DCT supplement after the meal – either a low or high dose – another group took a placebo.

Researchers determined energy expenditure (heat production) in each subject after he or she consumed one serving of the test meal. They found that at least for several hours after the test meal was eaten, energy expenditure was significantly increased in the group consuming the highest amount of DCT. The energy expended was almost double that of the placebo group, suggesting it may help dieters by increasing metabolism.

There are plenty of caveats to this study – e.g, it’s small, limited to a single meal – but it does buoy the evidence, once again, that there is a lot of hidden health benefits inside plant foods. That supports AICR’s recommendation to eat plenty of a variety of fruits and vegetables: it will add flavor, healthful compounds, and maybe even help with weight loss.

Do you love chili peppers, hate them, or a little of both? Have a good chili pepper story?