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Issue 141: Weighty Consequences

Weighty Consequences

There are plenty of reasons why people want to lose excess weight, including feeling better and looking better. Here’s a reason that might tip the scales in favor of shedding those pounds for good, though. Fat tissue doesn’t just sit around minding its own business. In fact, it gets into the “business” of other areas of the body and can wreak havoc.

Scientists, whose findings were published in the Journal of Proteome Research, have discovered 20 new hormones and other previously unknown substances that are secreted into the blood by human fat cells. This realization confirms that fat is far from being inactive. It’s actually an active organ that sends chemical signals to other parts of the body, which can increase a person’s risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other diseases. That’s pretty sobering, too, especially when you take into account that there are billions of fat cells in the body.

Excess fat tissue also promotes increased and unhealthy levels of inflammation compounds in the bloodstream. Additionally, it adds to oxidative stress on the body, which can lead to DNA mutation and lessened immune function. Put together, these “fat tissue forces” can lead to the formation and multiplication of unhealthy cells.
Perhaps that’s why more than 100,000 cancers in the United States each year—most of them preventable—are linked to excess body fat, according to data from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). The AICR highlights that over-the-top body fat is linked to 49 percent of endometrial cancers, 35 percent of esophageal cancers, 28 percent of pancreatic cancers, 24 percent of kidney cancers, 21 percent of gallbladder cancers, 17 percent of breast cancers and 9 percent of colorectal cancers.

So, why does being overweight increase a person’s risk of cancer? Laurence N. Kolonel, M.D., Ph.D., Deputy Director of the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii and member of the expert panel who came up with these cancer figures, says that several mechanisms seem to be at work. For example, excess body fat increases hormones like estrogen circulating in the body and can disrupt insulin processes, both of which can increase cancer risk. Kolonel adds, “Being overweight creates low-grade inflammation in the body, and there’s a lot of research going on right now that links chronic inflammation to cancer.” Kolonel concludes, “The evidence is clear. If people sustain a normal body weight and remain physically active throughout life, it will have a major impact on cancer incidence.” Poor diet, of course, is linked to cancer as well, according to the AICR and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

The American Cancer Society (ACS) weighs in, too. A 2003 ACS study of more than 900,000 men and women indicated that death rates from all cancers were 53 percent higher for the heaviest men and 62 percent higher for the heaviest women in the study, compared to those who were of normal weight. It’s bad enough that carrying around too much weight can feed cancer and other unhealthy outcomes, but about half of all Americans don’t even know that being overweight is a cancer risk, says the AICR.

If you want to support a healthy weight, then stick to a healthy diet which includes plenty of servings of fresh vegetables and fruits as well as whole grains and other good-for-you foods, including those that can support healthy inflammation levels. Additionally, be sure to include at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity five days a week or more.

It could just help you avoid excess fat’s weighty consequences.


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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