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Obesity: A Risk Factor for Cancer

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Everyone knows that smoking is a major cause of cancer. Yet, according to research published in the British Journal of Public Health (2001), obese adults have more chronic health problems than their smoking counterparts.

Everyone knows that smoking is a major cause of cancer. Yet, according to research published in the British Journal of Public Health (2001), obese adults have more chronic health problems than their smoking counterparts.

More than 30 known diseases are now believed to be directly linked to excess body fat, including heart disease, diabetes, periodontal disease, inflammation, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, infertility, and many cancers (including gastrointestinal, colon, kidney, esophagus, prostate, breast, and endometrial).

Over the last several years, more scientists have come to accept that there is a link between obesity and cancer. According to Dr. Graham Colditz, epidemiology professor at Harvard School of Public Health, "Given the trends in obesity and the increasing evidence of a broad range of cancers caused by excess energy balance, the projected burden of cancer over the coming years is worrisome."

Cancer, Obesity, and Insulin

One of the primary areas of concern regarding the accumulation of body fat is its association with high insulin levels, a condition referred to as hyperinsulinemia. Researchers from Columbia University found that hyperinsulinemia increases the incidence of obesity in
prepubescent girls, and it also precedes a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes by 5 to 20 years. What does this have to do with cancer? Aside from the connection between high insulin levels and obesity, it turns out that numerous cancers may also be linked with high levels of insulin.

Israeli researchers have discovered that patients suffering from colon, stomach, and breast cancer had up to three times as much insulin, or insulin-like substances, in their tumours. Hyperinsulinemia is often associated with insulin resistance, the condition where body cells resist or do not respond even to high levels of insulin. Turkish researchers discovered a possible means by which obesity and high insulin levels create an enhanced risk for breast cancer. In overweight and obese patients, inflammatory biochemicals (possibly coming from fat cells) and high insulin levels appear to work synergistically to contribute to the development of breast cancer.

It is no wonder that cancer is at epidemic proportions when you consider that most people consume an abundance of overly processed, high-glycemic foods that over-stimulate insulin. High insulin levels then stimulate lipoprotein lipase (LPL), an enzyme that greatly affects fat storage. Obesity researchers sometimes call LPL the gatekeeper of fat storage because of its powerful ability to enhance fat cells.

Research presented in the journal Medical Hypothesis (August 2001) shows that low-glycemic, vegetarian, high-protein diets lower LPL activity. If you reduce insulin through diet (not dieting), you can control your rate of fat storage, and this can contribute to decreasing your risk of obesity and cancer. Here's how:

  • Avoid high glycemic foods especially processed grains (white flour).
  • Supplement with natural fibre formulas approximately 15 minutes prior to each meal.
  • Get adequate sleep; researchers have found a link between insufficient sleep, hyperinsulinemia, and insulin resistance.
  • Take a long walk after dinner, as this will help to clear excess sugars from your blood.
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