Report Finds Healthy Eating Equals Decreased Cancer Risk, but Not All Can Afford It Print Write e-mail
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Cancer - Cancer 2007
Written by Frank Mangano   
Sunday, 04 November 2007 01:04

Is Wealth Required for Health?

All of us know that smoking is devastating to our health and increases the risk of getting cancer dramatically. What you may not know, though, is that obesity increases your cancer risk almost as much as smoking does.

In a report filed by ABC News on Halloween—a day of gorging on candy for many of us—the study links excessive weight gain to the risk of acquiring six different kinds of cancers, including colon, kidney, and breast cancer.

Titled “Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective,” the study was conducted by two organizations, the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund. It gives readers of the study guidelines for avoiding excessive weight gain, like how much exercise to perform, what foods to avoid and where one’s weight ought to be, according to sex, height and age.

What makes this study particularly meaningful, as noted by ABC News, is the fact that it puts a wealth of past research studies by scientists that corroborate ties of weight gain to cancer (approximately 7,000 studies) into one comprehensive report.

While doctors emphasize that the leaner the individual the less likely he or she is will get cancer, they caution not to become too paranoid about putting on weight. The body does need some fat, as it’s essential for every day functions the body goes through. It’s also the most concentrated energy source compared to carbohydrates and proteins, a good thing to know for those of us who exercise regularly. Speaking of exercise, the report suggests a regular exercise regimen of 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

In addition to recommendations, the report casts a particularly harsh light on the consumption of red meat. For example, studies suggest that for every 1.7 ounces of red meat consumed, the risk of getting cancer increases 15 percent. Their suggestion is to restrict red meat consumption to no more than 18 ounces per week and to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. But that may be a problem, particularly for families with low income levels.

In a separate study, also reported by ABC News, the American Dietetic Association found that low income families who strive to eat more fruits and vegetables devote between 45 and 70 percent of their weekly food budget to fruits and vegetables, if they were to buy the produce needed to meet the 2005 dietary guidelines for daily fruit and vegetable consumption. In other words, it’s cheaper to buy foods that have less nutritional value (like sugary sodas, candy and television dinners) than the foods that could wind up saving your life. What explains the high price in produce over foods with high shelf life? Just that—shelf life. Because foods with long shelf life don’t spoil, not as much has to be produced in order to meet demand. It’s just the opposite for fruits and vegetables.

So what can be done? The things suggested by doctors interviewed in the ABC News report I whole heartedly agree with. Among them, there needs to be a movement away from foods that have long shelf lives. Though they may last long, it doesn’t translate into a long human “shelf life.” The CDC says that less than a third of people in America today get the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables into their diet. Perhaps this report will be a clarion call to the masses to start changing their eating habits for the sake of their families’ health. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the government needs to subsidize the production of fruits and vegetables so low income families don’t have to donate so much of their income to foods that should be a regular part of their diet. It’s a sad state of affairs when families are trying to eat healthy, but can’t because they see it as too much of an impingement on their wallet. Families should never have to choose between their health and their ability to make rent.



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