Elisa Shackelton: Another good reason to limit holiday weight gain

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— The holiday season tempts us with extra calories from baked goodies, hot winter drinks, party appetizers, and more frequent eating events than usual - and unfortunately, the average American gains about a pound each holiday season, planning to take it off when they start a new diet in January. But rather than justifying over-eating throughout the holidays, a few extra pounds should be a signal that it is time to either make some immediate corrections in the way you're eating or increase your level of physical activity or, preferably, do some of both.

One of the biggest changes in our current understanding about cancer is that there is a much stronger link between being overweight and the development of several types of cancer. And for almost all cancers, the increased risk starts even before you cross the line between normal and overweight, which is why a team of international experts now recommend being as lean as possible within normal range throughout the lifespan.

After reviewing the results from nearly a half million studies dealing with cancer and various exposures, a new report concludes that if you don't smoke, the single most important thing you can do to prevent cancer is to keep your weight under control. Cancers that are now linked to obesity include: endometrial, colon, kidney, pancreatic, breast, adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and some lymphomas and leukemias.

It is definitely easier to keep weight off than it is to lose weight, because gaining weight actually causes your body to change. For example, your bones get bigger carrying around extra weight, and you may have gotten arthritis which makes it harder to exercise to take off weight. It may be difficult or impossible to get back to your ideal weight, but studies show that even a 5 to 10 percent weight loss can be beneficial.

In breast cancer research of postmenopausal women, the study found that the strongest relationship was with the amount of weight gain after age 18. Unless a person is doing serious body building, weight gain after age 18 is almost all fat.

The panel issued the following recommendations for minimizing cancer risks:

• Be as lean as possible within the normal range of body weight.

• Be physically active every day.

• Limit consumption of calorie-dense foods and avoid sugary drinks.

• Eat mostly foods of plant origin.

• Limit your intake of red meat and avoid processed meat.

• Limit alcoholic drinks.

• Limit consumption of salt.

• Aim to meet your nutritional needs through diet alone.

• Aim to breastfeed infants exclusively up to six months and continue as they start eating food.

(Revised from Nutrition Action Healthletter, December 2007, "Rating Cancer Risks".)

For more information, contact Elisa at the CSU Moffat County Extension Office, 539 Barclay, 824-9180.

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