How Weight Affects Your Cancer Risk?

The trouble is that through poor dietary and lifestyle choices, this fire can get fuelled and burn out of control for long periods. This so-called chronic, low-grade inflammation activates the body’s immune system which may cause unnecessary damage to healthy cells, that is, cancer.
How Weight Affects Your Cancer Risk?
How Weight Affects Your Cancer Risk?

2.1 billion1:

The number of adults around the world estimated to be overweight/obese, a number which has doubled since the 1980s. South Africa, the stats are just as grim with

2 in 3 women

1 in 3 men overweight/obese2.

The trouble is that being overweight increases our risk of getting cancer (and a long list of Metabolic Diseases). In fact, after tobacco, the World Health Organization3 (WHO) says that overweight and obesity are the most important known avoidable causes of cancer.

What Cancers are Linked to Being Overweight/Obese?

There is strong evidence that being overweight or obese increases the risk of various cancers4 
such as cancer of the :

    • Mouth
    • Pharynx
    • Larynx
    • Oesophagus
    • Stomach
    • Pancreas
    • gall bladder
    • liver
    • colon
    • breast (post-menopause)
    • ovary
    • endometrium (womb)
    • prostate
    • kidney

Studies have shown that as much as 1 in 5 of all cancer deaths5 may be related to excess weight. 
It is estimated that by 2030, obesity-related cancers will have the highest death rates 5of all the cancers.

How does Excess Weight Affect My Cancer Risk?

When energy (kilojoules or calories) is consumed in excess of what our body needs, it is stored on the body as fatty (adipose tissue). The trouble is that when we are overweight/obese, this excess fatty tissue means that the body’s fat cells produce increased levels of inflammatory markers6 (like IL-β, Interleukin 1 beta, and TNF-α, Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha) that trigger this inflammation. 

As part of a normal immune response, inflammation is a natural physiological response and an essential part of stimulating the body’s natural healing processes.

Think of inflammation like a slow-burning fire

The trouble is that through poor dietary and lifestyle choices, this fire can get fuelled and burn out of control for long periods. This so-called chronic, low-grade inflammation activates the body’s immune system which may cause unnecessary damage to healthy cells, that is, cancer.

This inflammation is what is linked to cancer. In addition, fatty tissue produces hormones (like insulin and leptin) and cell signalling proteins called adipokines6. The consequence of this results in other pathological reasons related to obesity cancers, like insulin resistance, fatty liver syndrome and a change in the health of our gut microbiota.

Pause… did you get that… “fatty tissue produces hormones”. Most people believe fat is just a harmless and benign molecule… it’s not! 
It’s a hormone modulator, integrated into your nervous system, it actually signals your brain.

How Do I Maintain a Healthy Weight?

This is why the World Cancer Research Fund4 recommends that we aim to maintain a healthy weight for cancer prevention. Of course, maintaining a healthy weight is also important to manage our risk of other diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and other metabolic disorders.

      • Be conscious of your energy intake by making quality food choices
        (i.e. Managing calorie intake and eating quality calories).
Choose more whole, real foods like fruit, vegetables, lean protein like fish, chicken, and small portions of red meat, healthy fats like olives, olive oil, nuts and nut butter, and high fibre whole grains such as brown rice, wholewheat pasta/bread/couscous, bran, oats, etc.
      • Diets high in sugar drinks are responsible for obesity (and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD. Sugar has very little nutritional value yet contains a lot of energy. Sugar is referred to as being energy-dense yet nutrient-poor. Added sugar should be limited in a healthy diet, whether as added sugar or as part of sugar-rich foods and treats like cakes, soft drinks, and sugary cereals. These foods tend to also be naturally high in undesirable fats and salt, also not ideal for good health and healthy weight management, especially if you are sensitive to saturated fats.
      • Being more physically active will help manage healthy weight levels (i.e. The Law of Thermodynamics or the consumption and burning of calories. There are however hormonal factors, stress and genetic factors that regulate weight too). As a double win, there is also a link between being more active and decreased risk of cancers7 of the breast (post-menopause), bowel, and womb.

The FitChef Difference

Our FitChef meals are proudly supportive of managing a healthy weight to help manage our cancer risk:

      • Planning. All diets fail for one main reason. You don’t have enough high-quality food available now. So you end up binging on junk.
      • Convenience. In the modern hectic world, if we don’t make healthy eating more convenient than junk then most people will eat junk. FitChef has solved this by making healthy food more convenient than junk.
      • Portion controlled to manage energy intake.
      • High in fibre, from wholegrain carbs like brown rice and quinoa to help you feel fuller for longer.
      • High in fruits and vegetables which are rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants that may help protect against damaging free radicals.
      • Unprocessed whole food, free from added preservatives and flavourants.
      • Low in added sugar and refined carbohydrates which trigger a host of metabolic changes in the body that kickstart the inflammatory processes that may be linked to cancer.

References

    1. World Health Statistics 2017: Monitoring health for the SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2017.
    2. South Africa Demographic and Health Survey 2016: Report, National Department of Health (NDoH), Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), and ICF
    3. World Health Organisation. Recommendations for Preventing Cancer. Available online: http://www.who.int/cancer/prevention/en/. Accessed 15 April 2021.
    4. Word Cancer Research Fund/ American Institute for Cancer Research Continuous Update Project Export Report 2018. Body Fatness and Weight Gain and the Risk of Cancer. Available at www.dietandcancerreport.org.
    5. Font-Burgada J, Sun B, Karin M. Obesity and cancer: the oil that feeds the flame. Cell Met Rev. 2016; http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2015.12.015.
    6. Aleksandrova K et al. Metabolic mediators of the association between adult weight gain and colorectal cancer: data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort. Am J Epidemiol.2017;185(9):751-764.
    7. Word Cancer Research Fund/ American Institute for Cancer Research Continuous Update Project Export Report 2018. Physical Activity and the Risk of Cancer. Available at www.dietandcancerreport.org.
    8. Keum N et al. Adult weight gain and adiposity-related cancers: a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective observational studies. J Nat Cancer Inst. 2015.Doi:10.1093/jnci/djv088.
    9. Lauby-Secretan B et al. Body Fatness and Cancer — Viewpoint of the IARC Working Group. N Eng J Med. 2016;375(8):794-798.
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