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The Link Between Obesity and Cancer

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  Obesity is a frequently overlooked factor that can contribute to an increased cancer risk, yet less than 10 percent of Americans are aware of this link.1 According to the National Cancer Institute,2 an estimated 84,000 annual cancer cases are linked to obesity. Obesity may also affect the efficacy of cancer treatments. With rising obesity rates among young children in particular, it's becoming really important to understand this link.Childhood obesity has nearly tripled since 1980, and one in five kids is now overweight by age six; 17 percent of children and adolescents are now obese.3 Unfortunately, childhood obesity has become so prevalent that many parents fail to recognize that their children are in fact overweight.4Research5 has confirmed this perceptual shift, concluding that overweight/obese children are now nearly 25 percent less likely to be perceived as overweight compared to the previous decade.While body acceptance is a good thing, it can also be dangerous if potent risk factors for lethal disease are simply ignored as normal in the process.As noted in a recent position statement on obesity and cancer by the American Society of Clinical Oncology6 (ASCO), obesity is quickly overtaking tobacco as the leading preventable cause of cancer. To address this overlooked cause of cancer, ASCO has established a  multipronged initiative,   which includes:Education to raise awareness about the evidence linking obesity and cancerTools and resources to help oncology providers address obesity with their patientsResearchAdvocating for policy and systems change to address societal factors contributing to obesity and improve access to weight management services for patients with cancerProcessed Food Drives Obesity and Cancer EpidemicsThe obesity epidemic is directly related to excessive sugar consumption (virtually every single processed food is now loaded with hidden sugar and fructose, including baby food and foods thought of as health foods ), and this is also a major driving factor for the cancer epidemic.The link between a high-sugar diet, obesity, and cancer can be summarized in two words: insulin resistance. Both obesity and cancer result when your body loses its ability to burn fat as fuel.Sugar also causes chronic inflammation, which also raises the risk of cancer. And, as noted in the featured CNN article:7 Fat tissue also produces hormones called adipokines, which can stimulate or inhibit cell growth8... If these hormones are out of balance, the body may not be able to properly fight cell damage. One of the most effective ways to reverse insulin resistance is intermittent fasting, along with making some basic changes to your diet, which revolves around restricting your sugar and fructose intake, and replacing carbs with healthy fats.Studies Showing Obesity-Cancer LinkA number of studies have linked obesity to an increased risk for about a dozen different cancers, including cancer of the colon, esophagus, kidney, breast, and  pancreas, as well as a heightened risk of dying from the disease:A 16-year long study9 published in 2003 that included more than 900,000 Americans found that obese participants were more likely to be diagnosed and die from cancer, compared to those of normal weightAccording to the authors, obesity could account for 14 percent of all deaths from cancer in men and 20 percent of those in women A recent report published in the journal Cancer Research10 projects cancer incidence and death from cancer in the US will continue to rise over the next decade and a half, in large part due to rising obesity ratesA recent study11 involving 80,000 breast cancer patients found that pre-menopausal women with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 had a 21.5 percent chance of death whereas women with average BMI had a 16.6 percent chance of dying from the diseaseA recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Internal Medicine12 found that most adults (just over 71 percent) get 10 percent or more of their daily calories from added sugar. Approximately 10 percent of American adults get 25 percent or more of their daily calories from added sugar!On average, Americans consume about 350 calories a day from added sugar, which equates to about 22 teaspoons, and this is a sure-fire recipe for chronic poor health...In the JAMA study just mentioned, those who consumed 21 percent or more of their daily calories in the form of sugar were twice as likely to die from heart disease compared to those who got seven percent or less or their daily calories from added sugar. The risk was nearly tripled among those who consumed 25 percent or more of their daily calories from added sugar.But cancer is also fed by excess sugar, so while cancer risk was not assessed here, there's little doubt that your cancer risk will rise right along with your risk for heart disease...Your Body Has Limited Ability to Process SugarThe main problem with sugar, and processed fructose in particular, is the fact that your liver has a very limited capacity to metabolize it. According to Dr. Robert Lustig, you can safely use about six teaspoons of added sugar per day unless you are vigorously exercising. But the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day.All that excess sugar is metabolized into body fat, and leads to all of the chronic metabolic diseases we struggle with, including cancer.Four grams of sugar is equivalent to about one teaspoon, and I strongly recommend limiting your daily fructose intake to 25 grams or less from all sources, including natural ones like fruit. That equates to just over six teaspoons of sugar a day.If you're among the 80 percent majority who have insulin or leptin resistance (overweight, diabetic, high blood pressure, or taking a statin drug), you'd be wise to restrict your total fructose consumption to as little as 15 grams per day, until you've normalized your insulin and leptin levels.
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