Updated guidelines for food and physical activities for cancer patients

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July 2021: The American Cancer Society has modified its cancer preventive diet and physical activity guidelines. A person’s lifetime risk of acquiring or dying from cancer can be considerably reduced by maintaining a healthy weight, being active throughout life, following a healthy eating pattern, and avoiding or restricting alcohol. A combination of these factors is linked to at least 18% of all cancer cases in the United States. After not smoking, these lifestyle choices are the most essential behaviours that people can control and adjust to help reduce their cancer risk.

Since the last update in 2012, new evidence has been published, and the amended guideline incorporates this. It was published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Cancer Society.

Recommendations for diet and physical activity

The guideline has been updated to incorporate suggestions for increasing physical exercise, eating less (or no) processed and red meat, and avoiding or drinking less alcohol. It reads:

Maintain a healthy body weight throughout your life. If you’re overweight or obese, even dropping a few pounds can reduce your risk of certain cancers.
Adults should engage in 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or a combination of the two every week. The highest health benefits can be obtained by exercising for 300 minutes or more.
Every day, children and teenagers should engage in at least one hour of moderate or intense intensity activity.
Reduce the amount of time you spend sitting or lying down. This includes time spent on your phone, tablet, computer, or watching television.
Consume a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains like brown rice.
Red meats like beef, pork, and lamb, as well as processed meats like bacon, sausage, deli meats, and hot dogs, should be avoided or limited.
Sugar-sweetened beverages, highly processed foods, and refined grain items should all be avoided or limited.
It is better not to consume alcoholic beverages. If you do, limit yourself to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for males. 12 ounces of ordinary beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits constitute a drink.
The advice is based on current data that suggests that how you eat, rather than specific foods or minerals, is crucial in reducing the risk of cancer and increasing general health, according to Laura Makaroff, DO, American Cancer Society senior vice president, Prevention and Early Detection.

“There is no single meal, or even dietary group,” Makaroff added, “that is sufficient to achieve a significant reduction in cancer risk.” She believes that people should eat whole foods rather than individual components because data continues to show that healthy dietary patterns are linked to a lower risk of cancer, particularly colorectal and breast cancers.

Many people find it difficult to make appropriate eating and exercise choices. Social, economic, and cultural factors all influence how people eat and exercise, as well as how easy or difficult it is to change. Public, private, and community organisations should collaborate to enhance access to inexpensive, healthy foods as well as safe, fun, and accessible physical activity options.

Any adjustment you try to make for a healthier lifestyle will be simpler if you live, work, play, or attend to school in a community that encourages it. Look for methods to make your neighbourhood a healthy place to live by doing the following:

At school or at work, request healthier lunch and snack options.
Stores and restaurants that provide or serve healthy options should be supported.
Speak out on the need for sidewalks, bike lanes, parks, and playgrounds at city council and other community gatherings.

FAQ’s on healthy diet and physical activities

The new guideline also includes information on genetically modified foods, gluten-free diets, juicing/cleanses, and other topics that are frequently asked by the general public.

Genetically modified crops are created by inserting genes into plants to give them desirable characteristics such as insect resistance or improved flavour. At this time, there is no proof that foods prepared with these crops are hazardous to one’s health or increase the risk of cancer.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley that is considered safe by the majority of people. Gluten should be avoided by celiac disease sufferers. There is no evidence that a gluten-free diet reduces the risk of cancer in those who do not have celiac disease. Many studies have linked whole grains, especially gluten-free grains, to a lower risk of colon cancer.
There is no scientific evidence that consuming solely juices for one or more days (a “juice cleanse”) lowers cancer risk or has any health advantages. A juice-only diet may be deficient in certain nutrients and, in certain situations, may even cause health concerns.

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