Be Active, Get Smarter, Reduce Your Cancer Risk

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The reasons to make physical activity part of a daily routine just keep building. For one thing: there’s the evidence linking physical activity to reduced cancer risk. The latest incentive to get active comes from a new study that found exercise speeds learning and improves blood flow to the brain in monkeys.

Previous studies have linked improved learning to exercise in rodents; but this study examines this link in monkeys. The study is published in the journal Neuroscience; you can read the release here.

Physical activity can reduce cancer risk; can it make us learn better?

In the study, one group of monkeys was aerobically active – running on a treadmill for an hour each day, five days per week, for five months. Another group simply sat on the treadmill for the same amount of time.

Cognitive tests found that the exercising monkeys learned one task twice as quickly as the sedentary animals.

When it comes to exercise and cancer prevention, the link between physical activity and reducing cancer risk is clear. Regular activity acts with weight control – and excess body fat causes several different cancers – and also appears to have biological effects that lower cancer risk, such as strengthening the immune system.

Want to see if you are active enough? Take our quiz.

If you already incorporate physical activity into your day, how did you get into the habit? Any tips?

Linking Childhood Body Size to Breast Cancer Risk

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An intriguing new Swedish study linking heavier girls to decreased breast cancer risk highlights just how complicated the link is between body fat and cancer.

AICR’s expert report, along with other major reviews, have found clear evidence that excess body fat causes many different cancers, including post-menopausal cancer. And research shows that heavier children are more likely to become overweight adults.

But when it comes to cancer risk, studies are increasingly showing that there are “windows of susceptibility” – various periods during a person’s lifetime when diet, body fat, and physical activity exert a stronger than usual effect upon our risk of getting cancer.

These “windows” are one reason that the effects of lifestyle at an early age matter.

In this study, the researchers focused on girls at age seven. They showed about 6,000 adult women nine pictures of girls, ranging from skinny to obese body types. The women chose the picture that best resembled them when they were seven years old. About half of the women in the study had post-menopausal breast cancer.

The women who said they were bigger when younger were less likely to develop the disease overall, and also less likely to develop ER negative’ breast tumors, a form more difficult to treat. Even when the authors took into account other risk factors, such as adult BMI and estrogen exposure, the decreased risk held.

The study is published in the journal Breast Cancer; you can read it here.

Read more… “Linking Childhood Body Size to Breast Cancer Risk”

The Science of Calorie Density

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Think of it as “calories per bite.”

Foods that are high in fat and/or sugar tend to be packed tightly with calories. In such cases, looks can be deceiving — even relatively small amounts might contribute more calories to your daily intake than you’ve bargained for.

Other foods whose “bulk” is provided by things like fiber or water — like many plant foods — are low in calorie density.  You can eat more of these foods, because each bite packs less of a caloric wallop.

Sounds simple, no?  It’s really all you need to know to get started making meals that are lower in overall caloric density – meals that maximize flavor, variety and cancer protection while helping lose — or maintain — weight.

That’s why calorie density is such an important part of AICR’s message.  It’s the science behind our New American Plate approach to eating for a healthy weight  and healthy life, and it’s something we think about as we develop recipes in the AICR Test Kitchen.

Our brochure, More Food, Fewer Calories is full of ideas for making calorie density work for you.

And this section of the AICR website also contains lots of practical tips.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be making an in-depth background paper on the subject of calorie density available to members of our Health Professionals and Educators eCommunity.  We provide these papers to help HPs stay informed on the latest science and help them “bottom line” the research into practical advice for patients and clients.