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Study: Cutting Premature Death with AICR Recommendations

Older Man walking with little GirlEating your fruits and veggies and staying a healthy weight  – two of AICR’s recommendations for cancer prevention – ranked among the top steps people can take to reduce risk of premature death from cancer and other diseases, suggests a major study published today.

The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and it’s the first time a study has applied AICR’s recommendation for cancer prevention to mortality.

"Our major finding is that a healthy lifestyle and diet are very likely to be protective against premature mortality from the three most common causes of death," said Anne-Claire Vergnaud, PhD, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London and first author of the study. “At least four out of seven WCRF/AICR recommendations were strongly associated with each cause of death and all the recommendations were inversely associated with at least one cause of death. Thus all recommendations are relevant to prevent premature death”

Following at least six of AICR’s recommendations for cancer prevention cut risk of premature death from all diseases by about one-third when compared to those who adhered to the fewest of the recommendations. For cancer alone, adhering to highest numbers of the recommendations led to a 20 percent reduced risk of a premature death during the course of the study.

In the United States, that translates to 115,000 people dying from cancer every year.

For the study, researchers used the seven of AICR’s ten recommendations for cancer prevention that applied to a healthy population and that were measurable. The research was funded by WCRF International.

Here are the seven recommendations they looked at:

  1. being lean but within the healthy weight range
  2. being physical active at least 30 minutes a day
  3. avoiding sugary drinks and limiting calorie-dense foods
  4. eating plenty of plant foods
  5. Eating less than 500 grams of red meat (less than 18 ounces) and avoiding processed meats
  6. Limiting alcoholic drinks
  7. For women, breastfeeding

The study included almost 380,000 people in nine European countries. At the start of the study, participants answered questions about their diet, activity and other lifestyle habits.

After almost 13 years, 23,828 of the participants had died, primarily from heart disease and cancer. Those who followed at least six of AICR’s recommendations were 34 percent less likely to die compared to those who least followed the recommendations.

The recommendation with the greatest impact on reducing the risk of death from disease overall was also the recommendation most strongly linked for cancer prevention: body fatness. Those who were lean while being a healthy weight had a 22 percent reduced risk of death. Those who ate at least five portions of fruits and vegetables a day along with whole grains had a 21 percent reduced risk of death compared to those who ate the fewest plant foods.

This study was also the first to quantify how AICR’s recommendations on breastfeeding linked to risk of dying. Mothers who breastfeed their child for at least six months had a lower risk of dying from both cancer and circulatory disease compared to women who did not breastfeed.

It’s no surprise that following AICR’s recommendations can prevent cancer deaths because following the recommendations can prevent an estimated one-third of US cancer cases. That means almost 400,000 cases of cancer in the United States can be prevented each year by following a healthy diet, being physically active, staying a healthy weight and limiting alcohol intake.

But this study adds powerful new data that suggests following AICR’s cancer-protective lifestyle also prevents deaths from other diseases, including cardiovascular disease.

Read more about AICR’s recommendations for cancer prevention.


Source: Anne-Claire Vergnaud, et al. "Adherence to the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research guidelines and risk of death in Europe: results from the European Prospective Investigation into Nutrition and Cancer cohort study."Am J Clin Nutr. May 2013 ajcn.049569. First published April 3, 2013,.

Published on April 4, 2013

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