Friday, November 2, 2018

More Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet: Boost in Mood (and Other Positive Changes) for Those with Type 2 Diabetes

A new analysis out this week found that people with type 2 diabetes who eat a largely plant-based diet can experience a boost in quality of life and well being, in addition to improvements in other diabetes-related factors.

The analysis, which appears in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, reviewed the results of 11 separate dietary intervention studies in adults with diabetes.  Each study included a group that followed a largely plant-based or vegan diet and a control group that followed a standard comparison diet.  The studies included in the analysis lasted for at least 3 weeks.

Compared to the control groups, those in the plant-based diet groups reported a higher quality of life, better self-esteem, and lower rates of depression and perceived pain.  They also largely showed better blood sugar control, improved blood cholesterol, greater weight loss, and a drop in use of diabetes-related medications.

These findings suggest there could be important, wide-ranging benefits if more people switched from the standard American diet to one that limits animal products and focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and healthy oils (like vegetable and olive oil). Around 30 million Americans - or close to 10 percent of the population - have type 2 diabetes. And this number rises to 100 million if those on the cusp of developing diabetes (pre-diabetes) are included.

Plus, the benefits of plant-based diets reach well beyond those with diabetes. In more general studies, vegetarian or mostly vegetarian diets have been shown to curb weight gain and help with weight loss as well as lower the risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, unhealthy blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. And they are increasingly being recommended as a key aspect of efforts to improve environmental sustainability, as meat products require greater resources to bring to market than plant products.

While the switch to a plant-based diet can take some effort initially, it doesn't have to happen all at once, and it certainly doesn't need to be all-or-nothing. Try a new whole grain.  Go meatless for one day of the week.  Or make a recipe with beans that you'd normally make with ground beef.  There's no rush.  See what works for you and build on that.

Such moves toward more plant-based eating can have important benefits over time - for you, the nation, and the planet.

Why not give it a try?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Video Tour: 8 Ways to a Healthier Weight - and Lower Risk of Cancer

Take a quick video tour of the latest from our 8IGHT WAYS series: 8IGHT WAYS to a Healthier Weight - and Lower Risk of Cancer.  Whether you're looking to maintain your weight or lose a few pounds, this new guide is filled with simple, useful, and brief tips to help you on your way.  Find it, and other in the series, here

Friday, August 10, 2018

Physical Activity Lowers Cancer Risk - More People Should Probably Know That

A new study has found that a large majority of the public may be unaware that lack of physical activity can increase the risk of cancer.

The study, out of Washington University in St. Louis and published Wednesday in the Journal of Health Communication, included a diverse sample of participants who were asked to list three diseases caused by physical inactivity. Just three percent of 351 respondents listed cancer, while over 60 percent listed diseases such as heart disease or diabetes.

These findings add to those of other studies and surveys that have shown that: while many people know that a healthy lifestyle overall can help prevent cancer, many are often unsure about the exact types of behaviors that can lower cancer risk.

A 2017 American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) survey, for example, found that the vast majority of respondents knew that smoking and sun exposure increased cancer risk, yet well under half identified physical inactivity as a risk factor.

There is a large amount evidence, however, showing the benefit of regular physical activity in relation to cancer.  It can lower the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, and endometrial cancer. It can help with weight control - a key cancer risk factor. And in cancer survivors, it can improve mood, boost energy level, and possibly lower the chance of recurrence.

Physical activity has been an integral part of the Siteman Cancer Center's Your Disease Risk tool since its launch in 2000, and regular physical activity is recommended throughout Siteman's 8IGHT WAYS cancer series (see below).

Erika Waters, lead author of the Washington University study and Associate Professor of Surgery at the School of Medicine, commented: "People might be more likely to exercise if they understand just how important physical activity is to their overall health - not just their heart health."


Friday, August 3, 2018

For World Breastfeeding Week: Breastfeeding Tips & Tricks

Breastfeeding for a total of one year or more (combined for all children) lowers the risk of breast cancer. It also has great health benefits for the child. Unfortunately, as natural a thing as breastfeeding is, it doesn’t always naturally fit into today’s modern society. While things are certainly better than they were -- with more understanding workplaces and day care providers -- moms still often need to work hard to make it work.

Tips and Tricks – Breastfeeding

Start early and ask for help. Breastfeeding has the best chance of success when it’s started early, and this usually means beginning an hour or less after the baby is born. Many hospitals help mothers initiate breastfeeding, but it’s also best to let the delivery nurses know your desire to breastfeed your baby. If you have questions, ask. If you have problems, ask. Many hospitals offer great support for new moms who want to breastfeed – not only in the hours after birth, but the days, weeks, and months after as well.

Don’t be shy. Even though there are still a few vocal opponents to breastfeeding in public, put them at the back your mind, and charge forward and breastfeed when and where you need to. Job interviews and work meetings may not be the best venues to do so, but most other places are just fine.

Coordinate with your workplace and day care provider. Going back to work is just a fact of life for most new moms, and balancing work and breastfeeding can be a real challenge. A large percentage of new moms are interested in breastfeeding their children, and employers and day cares have taken note, offering much better resources than they used to. If you’re unsure about the resources available to you, ask. The human resources office is a good place to start.

Next Steps – Breastfeeding

Looking for more in-depth information on breastfeeding? Here are some good sources:

La Leche League

United States Department of Labor

National Conference of State Legislatures

Thursday, July 12, 2018

One in Five High Schoolers Vape or Use Tobacco. Tips for Guiding Your Teen Toward Healthier Choices

Recently released numbers from a national survey show that many high school-aged youth in the United States put themselves at risk for lifelong addiction by using tobacco or electronic cigarettes.

The 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System report found that 16 percent of girls and 24 percent of boys had vaped, used smokeless tobacco, or smoked cigarettes or cigars in the past 30 days (figure).

While experimentation is a natural part of youth, when it comes to smoking, it can have lifelong consequences.

Around 90 percent of adults who regularly smoke tried their first cigarette before age 18.  So, it’s important for parents to have open discussions with their children very early in life about the dangers of smoking, how addictive cigarettes and nicotine are, and how hard it can be to stop smoking once started.

Though in a tween and teen’s mind there can be a big draw to smoking – it can make them feel more mature and part of a group – there’s a lot going against it, too - even within the short time horizon that youth live in.  It’s expensive, and it makes clothes and breath smell.  And even some of the longer-term risks can be compelling, such as wrinkles, bad teeth, and an increased risk of many serious diseases, including cancer.

Electronic cigarettes are increasingly important to talk about in these ages as well.  Statistics show that kids are using them more and more, and though electronic cigarettes are often marketed as safe alternatives to standard cigarettes, there are a lot of possible dangers for youth who use them – from nicotine addiction to exposure to risky chemicals to a greater likelihood of taking up regular cigarettes.

As with other issues, a little media literacy can go a long way to dissuade children from falling for the allure of tobacco and electronic cigarettes.  The older children get, the more they like to feel in control and independent.  Helping them understand how tobacco companies try to manipulate them by constructing appealing images of tobacco in advertisements, TV shows, concerts, and movies can help them more easily resist smoking’s draw.  The Truth campaign by the American Legacy Foundation is a great source of information for parents and kids about Big Tobacco’s “lies and manipulation.”

One of the best thing parents can do is to lead by example and maintain a smoke-free and vape-free house and be smoke-free themselves.

A great source of information for parents and teens is, a federal site, which also includes smokefreeteen.

In the tween and teen years, children begin to fully explore their independence, and this translates to many of their health choices.  While parents may slowly lose some of the direct influence they have on their childrens' choices, it's important to remember that family life remains a very strong influence on the choices they make and the lasting habits they’ll form.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Our Top Posts: Winter into Spring 2018

Even in today's frenetic media landscape, health news can still grab the headlines.  It is a real testament to the priority we place on good health and well being - how important they can be not only to ourselves but also to our family, friends, and communities.  In the first part of 2018, we posted pieces on a wide variety of high-profile health topics, but those that stood out the most with CNiC readers were a bit different than our usual.  Rather than being focused on one particular study or news item, they were much broader - taking a big picture approach that provided tips and motivation for putting what we know about healthy lifestyles and disease prevention into practice.  
Certainly in line with this is our most popular post of the year so far - "Spring Ahead: 5 Reasons Spring is a Great Time to Work on Your Health Goals" - which, in addition detailing how spring can inspire healthy behaviors, highlights the recent launch of our newly updated and re-designed health risk assessment tool, Your Disease Risk.

So, as we head toward Memorial Day - and the summer months - enjoy our top 5 posts from the first part of 2018, in order of popularity:

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March 20, 2018
Spring Ahead: 5 Reasons Spring is a Great Time to Work on Your Health Goals

On top of all the other wonderful things about spring, it can also be a great time to work on improving your health.

Don’t groan.

While working on your health goals may not be as fun as watching spring training or walking through a blossom-filled park, your health is important. Very important.  And not only to you but also to those close to you. So why not take a little time to improve your health at a time of year that can give a you a leg-up toward success?

You can re-up on a New Year’s resolution – which for some people can get a bit wobbly around this time of year – or you can leave winter in the rearview mirror and pick something brand new to work on.

And Washington University in St. Louis’s re-designed website, Your Disease Risk, can help. First launched in January 2000, it provides disease risk estimates and personalized prevention tips for 12 different cancers, plus heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, and COPD.

Newly updated to work on all screen sizes – from desktop to phone – it is an evidence-based resource that translates the latest science on health and disease prevention into simple messages people can use. And its new behavior rankings function can now show you at a glance which healthy changes may lower your risk of disease the most.

“We designed Your Disease Risk to be an engaging tool to help people learn about their risk and improve their health,” says Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH, Professor of Medicine and inventor of the site. “And the new behavior rankings provide added information that can help with setting health goals.”

So, as you consider the goals you want to work on the rest of the year – and how you’re going to meet them – consider why spring can be a great time to do just that... < continue >
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January 24, 2018
In Practice: What I Learned from Weighing Myself (Almost) Every Day

by Hank Dart

In my many years of writing about and promoting healthy behaviors, I’m happy to say that I’ve at least tried to put into practice just about everything I’ve espoused. Of course, like many people, my success at doing so can be uneven. Some behaviors I do pretty well with - like exercise, olive oil, and fruits & vegetables. And some I admittedly struggle with - like, whole grains and added sugar.

But there’s one behavior I've written about a great deal but have never actually done myself. Regular weighing.  Stepping on the bathroom scale every day (or every week) and logging my weight.

Studies show that regular weighing can be a good tool for maintaining weight, especially in those who have lost weight and are working to keep it off. Because weight gain can creep up on people - a pound here, two pounds there - it's pretty easy to step on the scale after some months or years away and be surprised at the number staring up at you. Regular weighing can keep such jolts at bay and help us make small adjustments to how much we eat and how active we are so we can keep moving toward our long-term weight goals – whether it’s keeping weight steady or trying to slowly lose some weight.

And weight is a struggle for most of us in the United States.  Over two-thirds of the population is overweight or obese, and this has a huge impact on the health of individuals and the nation.  Being overweight is a cause of numerous cancers as well as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.  It can also hamper mobility and overall quality of life.

So, after years of writing about the benefits of regular weighing, it was time to put down my keyboard and hop on the scale.  On November 18, the week leading into Thanksgiving, I weighed myself for the first time in probably nine months and began my (almost) daily weighing program (see figure). 
What did I discover over my first two months of weighing? Here are some highlights...< continue >
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March 7, 2018
Quick Nutrition Tips for Lowering the Risk of Colon Cancer

It's March, which means it's both National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and National Nutrition Month. And that's an apt combination.

A number of healthy diet tips can help lower the risk of colon cancer. And they're all pretty straightforward.

Eat whole grains
Whole grains are filled with fiber and other healthy nutrients. And eating more of them can help lower the risk of colon cancer. Instead of foods like sugary cereals, white rice, and white bread, choose whole-grain cereals, whole-wheat bread, and brown or wild rice. If you're not used to eating whole grains, add them to your routine a bit at a time - building up to three or more servings a day. They taste great but can take a bit of getting used to.

Limit red meat, especially processed meat
Eating too much red meat – like steak, hamburger and pork – increases the risk of colon cancer. And processed meats – like bacon, sausage and bologna – raise risk even more. Try to eat no more than three servings each week. Less is even better. Fish, chicken breasts and healthy plant-based proteins (like beans) are great alternatives...< continue >

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January 2, 2018
Protect Your Children with the HPV Vaccine

Parents grow up wanting their kids to be healthy and happy. And taking control of your child’s health may be easier than you think with evolving research. We know that with healthy eating, encouraging exercise, staying safe in the sun, and getting scheduled vaccinations your child is on the right path to having a lower cancer risk later in life.

What’s even better news is that within the past decade, a specific vaccine has also been created to protect against at least five different types of cancers. This vaccine, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, is now recommended for all girls and boys during their annual check-ups.
HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection with over 100 different types of strands in existence. In fact, HPV is so common that an estimated nine out of 10 sexually active people will at some point be infected with HPV. Often times, HPV does not present with symptoms, which makes it hard to know when someone may be infected. For this reason, it is important to protect your child against HPV, as some forms of HPV can cause multiple cancers. At least two strands of the HPV virus have been shown to cause cervical, vagina, and vulva cancers in women, penile cancer in men, and head and neck cancer in both men and women. HPV can live for a long time in a person’s body, so someone may not know they have HPV, or an associated cancer, until years after being intimate with someone who carried the HPV virus. Sadly, HPV contributes to over 31,000 new cases of cancer each year, but we can reduce that number by protecting our children with the HPV vaccine.

Unfortunately, nationwide only 65 percent of girls initiate the HPV vaccination series and 49 percent receive the two recommended doses, while only 56 percent of boys initiate and 37 percent complete the series.

The good news is now the HPV vaccine is available for boys and girls to protect thems before they become sexually active...< continue >

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February 27, 2018
Short Take: Calories Matter in Weight Loss, Despite Some Recent Headlines

A recently published clinical trial out of Stanford University found that high-quality low-fat and high-quality low-carbohydrate diets could be equally effective for weight loss.

It was a positive finding from a well-designed study.

Many news headlines about the study, however, focused on something else entirely: that calories don't matter for weight loss. Some examples:

The problem is: The study didn't really find that.

In the trial, approximately 600 overweight and obese adults were randomly assigned to one of two diet groups (low-fat or low-carbohydrate) and followed over a 12-month period.  During the study, participants attended regular nutrition classes where emphasis was placed on healthy, high-quality foods – such as whole grains, healthy fats, and minimally processed foods.

Participants were not specifically instructed to lower their calorie intake...< continue >