Junk food diet and still thin? This could be bad news

Junk food diet and still thin? This could be bad news

The link between some types of cancer and obesity has been established for some time.

But recent research from the University of Arizona adds a surprising layer of complexity to the relationship between food and cancer: Women who eat high-calorie foods could see a higher risk of cancer, even if they are thin.

For this study, university researchers relied on data for 90,000 postmenopausal women supplied by the Women’s Health Initiative. The researchers also defined high-calorie food as food high in fat and low in water content, like processed food, pizza, candy and ice cream. These types of food are generally known to have little nutritional value.

An analysis of the data, including the women’s diets and cancer diagnoses, revealed that women who consumed high-calorie foods were 10 percent more likely to develop obesity-related cancer. But perhaps what was most surprising is the women were within their normal weight range and did not show any signs of obesity.

The lead authors of the study suggest that high-calorie foods could cause “metabolic dysregulation,” such as high insulin levels or inflammation, which could still increase one’s risk of cancer, even if that individual is thin.

“While obesity is certainly a risk factor for cancer, that is just one of many factors that could heighten a woman’s risk,” says Barbara Melendi, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago.

“The medical literature has shown that diet plays an important role in cancer prevention. I always recommend that patients consume fruits and vegetables as much as possible, as they pack in important nutrients and improve our body’s ability to keep cancer at bay.”

In addition to a vegetable- and fruit-focused diet, regular screenings and exercise are powerful tools to minimize your risk of many types of cancer, Melendi adds.

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About the Author

Jaimie Oh
Jaimie Oh

Jaimie Oh, health enews contributor, is the manager of public affairs and marketing at Illinois Masonic in Chicago. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has nearly a decade of experience working in publishing, strategic communications and marketing. Outside of work, Jaimie trains for marathons with the goal of running 50 races before she turns 50 years old.