Monday, June 6, 2011

Dietary Behaviors Of Our Youth Do Not Meet Cancer Prevention Guidelines

It is clear from the scientific literature as well as from the guidelines published by key cancer prevention organizations that diet and lifestyle are an important part of preventing cancer, including breast cancer.  According to the 2003 Health Information National Trends Survey, about 50% of Americans overall are aware that a healthy diet can reduce cancer risk.  Despite this, several studies have shown that a large proportion of American adults do not follow cancer prevention guidelines.  It is also thought that following these key cancer prevention guidelines throughout life can reduce our children's lifetime risk for developing cancer.

A new research study (free to download) examined how closely the diets of American youth aligned with current key cancer prevention guidelines.  In order to make the comparison, the researchers collected data from multiple health survey databases including the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS).  Key cancer prevention guidelines were collected from a number of highly respected cancer prevention organizations including the American Cancer Society, the American Institute for Cancer Research, the International Agency for Research on Cancer as well as several other health organizations.  The key diet-related cancer prevention guidelines and how well the diets of American youths meets these guidelines are briefly outlined below.

Dietary Recommendations for Cancer Prevention
  • Eat 5 or more servings (about 400 grams or 14 ounces) of a variety of fruits and vegetables daily
  • Consume whole grain products in preference to refined grains and aim for about 3 or more ounce-equivalents per day.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight through life and aim for the lower half of one's healthy body weight range.
  • Limit consumption of red and processed meats to less than 18 ounces (500 grams) per week.
  • Choose meats that are low in fat.
  • Limit consumption of refined carbohydrates; reduce intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and foods.
  • Limit consumption of energy-dense foods and avoid 'fast' foods whenever possible.
  • Reduce salt intake by eating fewer salty foods and fewer processed foods high in salt content.
  • Adults should limit alcohol consumption to 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women.  Children and adolescents should not consume any alcohol.
 Dietary Habits of American Youth
  • Fruit & Vegetable Intake - According to the NHANES survey, only 6.2% of teens met fruit consumption recommendations, only 2.2% met vegetable consumption recommendations and less then 1% met both recommendations.  According to the YRBS survey, the percent of students who consumed recommend daily amounts decreased from 1999 to 2005 and remained steady from 2005 to 2009 at about 22%.
  • Whole Grains - Available survey data suggests that only 3.4% of teens meet recommendations for whole grain consumption.
  • Healthy Body Weight - The prevalence of obesity in teens has increased from only 5% in 1970 to 18% in 2007-2008.  Data from 2009 showed that 12% of high school students were obese and another 16% were overweight.
  • Energy-Dense Foods - the low rate of youth consuming recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables suggests that they are over-consuming energy-dense foods, which are low in nutrients.
  • Refined Sugars - one survey reported that 30% of high school students had consumed a soda at least one time per day for the 7 days before the survey was conducted.  
  • Salt Intake - Data from the 2005-2005 NHANES showed that teen boys were consuming nearly 4,300 mg of sodium per day and teen girls were consuming about 3,000 mg per day, way above the recommended amount of 2,300 mg/day.
It is clear from this analysis of recommendations versus behaviors that American youth are a long way from meeting dietary cancer prevention guidelines.  A big part of reducing cancer, including breast cancer, risk starts with adopting healthy behaviors early in life and maintaining them throughout life.  We are clearly not convincing our youth to develop healthy eating habits and are therefore putting them at risk later in life for cancer as well as other health conditions.  An earlier study reported that following cancer prevention guidelines also reduces the risk for heart disease and reduces the risk for premature death due to all causes.  It is imperative that we do a better job of guiding American youth to better dietary habits. The current initiative to improve school lunches is a good step in the right direction, but I believe we can do more.

To learn about other diet and lifestyle choices to reduce your breast cancer risk, read my FREE book FIGHT NOW: EAT & LIVE PROACTIVELY AGAINST BREAST CANCER. Please recommend to anyone interested in breast cancer, breast cancer treatment, and breast cancer symptoms.

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