Healthy Helpings

By AFM Staff – April 1, 2016
Photo by Weston Carls

Although many teenage girls are blessed with fast metabolisms, it doesn’t excuse an unhealthy diet—especially one that is lacking in fiber. A study published in the journal Pediatrics revealed that adhering to a high-fiber diet during high school years can significantly reduce a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Harvard researchers behind the study based these findings on a long-term study of 44,000 women who were surveyed about their eating habits in high school, and then subsequently completed dietary questionnaires every four years. It was discovered that women who consumed high levels of fiber (24 grams per day, on average) had a 24 percent lower risk before menopause, compared with women who ate low levels (14 grams per day, on average). The benefits of fiber are not a new discovery, though. Other studies have shown dietary fiber can protect against colorectal cancer, lower risk for diabetes, and assist in weight management. Women are advised to consume 25 grams a day, and men are advised to consume 38 grams a day.

An abundance of evidence points to the fact that exercise is good for your health. However, the benefits of exercise have long been an enigma for oncologists. It has proved to be strongly associated with lowering the risk of many types of cancer, but the issue lies in the biological stress that exercise causes on the body, which leads to inflammation that is suspected to be linked to elevated risks of cancer. In an attempt to better understand this biological mystery, scientists at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark tested the correlation of running and cancer by studying mice. The researchers divided mice into two groups: runners and sedentary. All mice were implanted with melanoma skin cancer cells prior to testing. In four weeks, far fewer of the runners had developed advanced melanoma than the sedentary mice. They also showed fewer and smaller lesions, and were less prone to metastases even after scientists injected a metastases stimulant. The scientists found that the runners produced more adrenaline, as well as a higher number of immune cells (also known as natural killer cells) that are known to be potent cancer fighters. One of the most significant results was produced when the runner mice were injected with an adrenaline blocker—it was only then that cancer developed at the same rate as sedentary mice.

A little goes a long way, scientists learned when they measured the effects of weight loss. In a clinical trial, researchers randomized 40 obese individuals with signs of insulin resistance and challenged them to either maintain body weight or go on a low-calorie diet to lose 5 percent, 10 percent or 15 percent of their body weight. Results showed that obese individuals who lost as little as 5 percent of their body weight improved metabolic function and reduced the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, they found that insulin sensitivity showed significant improvements after participants lose just 5 percent of their body weight. Positive changes were also shown in triglyceride concentrations, blood pressure and heart rate.

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