With excess body fat linked to about one-third of cancers, it makes sense to trim down if necessary. A new study released by New York University suggests that the most protective steps against obesity-related cancers are eating a plant-based diet and limiting alcohol intake.
Excess body fat is associated with various cancers, including those of the gastrointestinal tract, reproductive organs, urinary tract, blood, bone, spleen and thyroid, according to the researchers. In their new study, they examined whether healthy habits included in cancer prevention guidelines from the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research might reduce the risk for certain cancers.
The study involved analysis of long-term medical and dietary data from nearly 3,000 American men and women. Between 1991 and 2008, there were 480 obesity-related cancers diagnosed among the participants.
The study wasn’t designed to prove cause and effect, only association. But after accounting for age, smoking and other factors that might contribute to cancer risk, overall adherence to the guidelines was not tied to a lower risk of obesity-related cancers, the researchers said.
However, one of the guidelines—limiting alcoholic drinks to two per day for men and one per day for women—did protect against all obesity-related cancers, as well as breast, prostate and colorectal cancers. The researchers also found that eating more fruits, vegetables and legumes was associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer.
“Based on the study’s results, dietary advice on preventing cancer should emphasize the importance of eating a plant-based diet and restricting alcohol consumption,” the study’s senior author Niyati Parekh, PhD, RD, associate professor of nutrition and public health at NYU, said in a university news release.
The study’s lead author, Nour Makarem, a nutrition doctoral student at NYU, added, “Our research aims to clarify associations between diet and physical activity in relation to cancer to encourage at-risk individuals to make lifestyle modifications that may reduce their risk of certain cancers.”