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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Low-Carb High Protein Diets For Lowered Cancer Risk



Guest post by Allison Gamble who has been a curious student of psychology since high school. She brings her understanding of the mind to work in the weird world of internet marketing.

My thoughts:  When Allison speaks about bread, think of low-carb bread and when she talks about whole grains, remember we keep that to an absolute minimum in our diet.  We also eat fruit in moderation.  Allison obviously follows a very moderate low-carb diet but for many low-carbers, this is not an option.  However, it is a very important observation - lowering the blood sugar and reducing carbs starves cancer cells. 
Also, the other point I need to make is that many folks think low-carbing is a high protein diet.  It is not meant to be.  It is an adequate protein diet but also a higher FAT diet.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed the obesity rate in 2011 as being approximately one-third of the United States population. A typical western diet, high levels of carbs and too many sugary, refined foods, may be to blame for weight issues. Though carbohydrates do have their place in our body's metabolic processes, the common American diet is making us sick, and it's time to change that.

Our bodies look for carbohydrates first when they are in need of energy. They keep the body from using muscle tissue as energy. However, consuming more carbohydrates than your body needs can lead to excess fat storage in the body. It doesn't take a psychology degree to know that food isn't just food: food is comfort, food is love in many cultures. However, only by breaking ourselves of our addiction to the social connotations of food can we change our health for the better.

It turns out that consuming too many carbohydrates might have a greater effect on the body than just weight gain. A study done by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in June of 2011 revealed that humans could likely live healthier on a lower carbohydrate diet. The study took two groups of mice, both injected with cancer cells, and assigned two different diet plans. The first diet was a typical western diet, which is characterized by the study as about 55% carbohydrate, 23% protein and 22% fat. The second group was given a diet that was higher in protein and only contained approximately 15% carbohydrates (comparable to the South Beach Diet). The study found that tumor cells had a slower growth rate in the second group of mice.

Mice that were prone to developing breast cancer were also divided and put on the two diets. The study maintained that the 70% of mice on the high carb diet developed breast cancer, while only 30% of mice on the high protein diet did.  It should be noted that only one mouse in the first group lived what is considered a normal lifespan (about 2 years).

The scientists involved in the AACR study explained that tumor cells need more glucose to grow. The reason the second group of mice had a much lower rate of tumor growth could be explained in their lower carbohydrate diet. The restriction of carbohydrates limited the blood glucose, therefore limiting the tumor growth in the second group of mice. In addition, diets high in protein can boost the immune system, which may explain the reason the mice in the second group had a longer lifespan and lower rate of tumor growth.

What does this mean for humans? The scientists involved in the study ascertain that the findings are significant enough that an effect in humans should be measured. The study suggests that a diet with more protein and less carbohydrates could promote a longer and healthier life.

In the past, it was argued that a lower carbohydrate, higher fat diet could have a detrimental effect on the arteries but recent studies funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute showed that this type of diet, when coupled with regular exercise, did not have a harmful effect. The short-term effects of a low-carb, high fat diet were examined and found that no additional stress was put on blood vessels as originally thought.

How do we begin to eat healthier, and get over the love of carbohydrates? Carbs chemically create soothing effects and a short-term burst of energy. They are contained in all the comfort foods we love. But we know that in the long run, they cause weight gain when eaten in excess, and that energy burst will only lead to a crash.

First, start by balancing your diet with complex carbs to limit the cravings for simple carbs or simple sugars. Complex carbs include brown rice, fresh fruits, and whole grains. Second, increase your protein intake. Protein helps to reduce cravings between meals. Making small changes can lead to permanent healthy eating habits and not just temporary, quick fixes.

Eating several smaller meals throughout the day instead of three larger meals is a good start for changing your diet and preventing overeating. Many people say they don’t have time with their busy schedules to eat smaller meals. Some of the meals can be eaten on the go like nuts, a protein shake, fruits, string cheese, or half a sandwich on whole grain bread. Another trick for preventing overeating is a healthy snack before dinner. Toast a piece of whole grain bread (complex carbs), and a teaspoon spread of extra virgin olive oil (Omega 3). Your stomach will feel fuller before the larger meal, and keep you from overeating in the long run. All of these tips can help to prevent that over-full feeling, and promote healthier eating habits in the long run.

Excessive, simple carbohydrates are at least in part responsible for obesity rates, and possibly, after looking at the study by the AACR, the promotion of tumor growth. The American Cancer Society shows breast cancer as being the second leading cause of cancer death among women. Factors like obesity and high cholesterol make one at higher risk of developing these types of diseases.

There are many reasons everyone should choose a healthier way of living. Cravings can be difficult to control and get over, but the AACR only adds to the list of reasons that a change in lifestyle should be made. Eating an unhealthy diet is like putting a ticking time bomb inside our bodies. No one changes overnight, but small changes made over time can aid in promoting a longer and healthier lifespan.

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