There's a good chance you've just started those resolutions for a healthy New Year. But how do your changes stack up to the latest research in cancer prevention?
Decades of research in diet, weight, physical activity and cancer risk have led to major findings. It’s now recognized that approximately one-third of the most common US cancers can be prevented with what we eat, weigh, and how much we exercise. Cancer prevention research is a relatively new field, but advances have created new approaches to reduce cancer risk, and improve overall health.
Here are six trends in cancer prevention research that can help you make 2015 your healthiest year yet.
1. Focus on what you eat most of the time
Forget worrying about the broccoli you skipped for lunch or any one fad health food. And no need to zero in on the latest cancer-fighting nutrient making news. Early on, studies focused on how specific foods or compounds play a role in cancer risk. This kind of specific research is useful, but now evidence is showing the importance of looking at dietary patterns, which is what you eat most of the time. For example, eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans while limiting alcohol, sweets and red meats creates an eating pattern linked to lower risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.
2. To lose weight, find the diet you can follow
Do you like Mediterranean foods? Love pasta and whole grain bread? Or perhaps you can't do without a dab of butter on your vegetables? A study this past year that looked at popular diets found that people who followed either low-carb or low-fat diets for a year lost about the same amount of weight. And there was little difference in weight loss among specific diet programs, such as Atkins or Weight Watchers. The study adds to the research that following any (healthy) eating pattern you can stick with is the best diet for losing weight for you.
3. Cook more, just a little
Cook dinner at home and you’re more likely to eat fewer calories, both at home and eating out, found a new study this year. This is only the latest that adds to the research on how cooking can help you eat healthier. This study also found that people who cooked a lot ate fewer calories when they went out to eat compared to those who barely cooked. And those making dinner at home frequently were eating fewer refined carbohydrates, sugar and fat. Try out our essentail cooking tips to get started.
4. Reduce that chronic inflammation
Years ago, it was all about rogue molecules called free radicals spurring cancer, and how antioxidants protect again free radicals. The antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables and other plant foods surely play a role in cancer protection, but the picture is more complex than we first thought.Today, research suggests we should pay more attention to chronic inflammation. This condition likely plays a pivotal role in many cancers, along with type 2 diabetes and other metabolic health disorders.
Obesity is one possible cause of chronic inflammation, and that may be a reason obesity is one cause of so many cancers. So how do you slow or reduce chronic inflammation? Eat well and work to get to a healthy weight – see numbers 1 and 2. You can also sign up for AICR's free online weight loss program for additional ideas and support – The New American Plate Challenge: 12 Weeks to a Healthier You.
5. Add options to up your kids' veggies and fruits
Studies used to mainly look at diet among adults as a link to cancer risk. After all, cancer primarily affects people when they get older. Yet the habits kids develop often stick as they age, and overweight kids are more likely to be overweight adults. Research also suggests there may be periods of time as kids grow when diet plays an especially vital role in future risk.
Studies point to several ways you can help kids eat healthier, such as having kids try a new food repeatedly and letting your kids see you eat it. In one study, preschoolers who were offered a variety of vegetables and fruit as a snack were more likely to eat more of both.
6. Take moving breaks
You know you should exercise. There's a good chance you already have it at the top of that resolution list. It turns out, getting up from your desk or couch regularly can also do your body a lot of good.
The research on sedentary behavior and cancer risk began in earnest several years ago, and it continues to build. An analysis of all the research published this year found that being too sedentary – whether at work or home – increases the risk of three cancers: colon, endometrial, and lung.
Each two-hour per day increase in sitting time linked to a modest but increased risk of cancers of the colon and endometrium. There are plenty of ways you can get up and move during commercials or when relaxing at home. At the office, here's a for quick 3-minute office workout.