The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans are out and they take a step in the right direction to help you make choices to lower your risk for cancer. Two key pieces of advice–eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of plant foods and keep sugary foods and drinks to a minimum. And that could mean fewer cases of cancer associated with poor diet and obesity.
You can put these into practice with our New American Plate model – filling at least 2/3 of your plate with vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fruit, and 1/3 or less with fish, poultry, meat and dairy.
The guidelines also recommend keeping your added sugar to 10 percent or less of your total calories. As we wrote earlier about the nutrition label and sugar, if you follow a 2000 calorie diet, you could have about one cup of fruit yogurt and one small dark chocolate bar. That’s because foods with high amounts of added sugar contribute to overweight and obesity, a cause of 10 cancers, including colorectal, postmenopausal breast and kidney.
Unfortunately, the Dietary Guidelines does not reflect the evidence-based recommendation from the independent expert committee to advise Americans to limit red and processed meat. It is disappointing that industry lobbying efforts succeeded in preventing the clear and simple message that these increase risk for colorectal cancer. AICR research has shown that red and processed meats are convincingly linked to colorectal cancer, and the World Health Organization has also recently established that link. Here’s our recommendation:
One of the most common questions we get here at AICR is about sugar. And it can be confusing. The overall body of evidence suggests that sugar’s link to cancer risk is an indirect one: diets high in sugar can lead to obesity, and excess body fat is a cause of ten different cancers.
But now comes a study performed in mice that is getting a lot of media attention. It suggests a more direct link between sugar consumption and breast cancer development. Published in Cancer Research, the study is interesting, says AICR Vice President of Research Susan Higginbotham, PhD, RD, “but it’s important to recognize, that this is a single study and it is testing diets in mice, not in people.”
“Our reports, which have reviewed thousands of studies on diet and cancer, have found no evidence that sugar or added sugar directly causes cancer in humans. “We recommend limiting energy-dense foods and avoiding sugary drinks, but current evidence suggests it is not necessary to avoid sugar altogether.”
For the first time, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is recommending Americans limit how much added sugar we eat and drink every day, according to a New York Times article — a shift that could potentially help Americans reduce their cancer risk.
The FDA is recommending we limit our added sugars to no more than 10 percent of daily calories. For an adult on a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s about 50 grams a day, about the amount in one can of soda or some flavored coffee lattes.
The new guidelines will make their way onto foods’ Nutrition Labels, where shoppers will be able to distinguish between sugars added to the food and those that are natural to the food. Fruits and milk all contain natural sugars.
For cancer risk, arming shoppers with more information on added sugars is important because foods and drinks with too much sugar can lead to excess body fat. These added sugars are often lurking in foods that are seemingly healthy, such as fruit drinks and yogurts. Fruits come with nutrients and other compounds that play a role in reducing cancer risk.
Currently, about two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese in our country. Overweight and obesity is a cause of approximately 122,000 of the most common cancers each year.
For now, you can use The many names of added sugar, listed in the image above, to spot added sugars in the ingredient list.
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American Institute for Cancer Research
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