How New Dietary Guidelines Report Aligns with Cancer Prevention

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The expert panel that helps shape U.S. Dietary Guidelines has made its recommendations. Among them: limiting red meat and added sugar, two changes that can help lower cancer risk.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report is the scientific foundation for the upcoming Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Released every 5 years, the guidelines become the basis for US food, school and nutrition policy. The committee evaluated data from current evidence, ranging from large observational studies to randomized controlled studies. AICR is cited throughout the report.

“AICR is heartened and pleased to see our Recommendations for Cancer Prevention, and the extensive, rigorous research behind them, cited throughout the DGAC report,” said Susan Higginbotham, PhD, RD, AICR Vice President of Research. “If the Committee’s proposed changes to the existing Dietary Guidelines are accepted, they will reflect the best advice for lowering cancer risk – and move the country closer to a day when no one develops a preventable cancer.”

The committee's report was shaped around two key principles: 1) About half of all American adults – 117 million people – have one or more preventable chronic diseases, such as cancer. And about two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. 2) What people eat and how active they are can lead to improved health.

Highlights of the DGAC report that relate to reduced cancer risk include:

- Limit red meat: For the first time, the DGAC is recommending that Americans limit their intake of red meat and processed meats. Previously, the Dietary Guidelines’ language has emphasized only “choosing lean meats.” This is an important, and in AICR’s view, a potentially life-saving change. High amounts of red meat and regular consumption of processed meats link to increased risk of colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of US cancer deaths.

- Limit added sugars: The DGAC report recommends limiting added sugar intake to not exceed 10 percent of total calories per day. For a 2,000 calorie a day diet that would equal not more than 200 calories. Currently, added sugars make up an average of 335 daily calories for men and 239 calories for women, according to a CDC report.

AICR recommends avoiding sugary drinks and limiting calorie-dense foods that are high in sugar. This is because added sugars are a source of excess calories that have been linked to obesity, itself a cause of nine different cancers, according to AICR: colorectal, esophageal, post-menopausal breast, endometrial, kidney, pancreatic, ovarian, gallbladder and advanced prostate cancer.

AICR estimates that excess body fat alone is a cause of approximately 112,000 U.S. cancer cases every year.

- Focus on eating patterns and foods, as opposed to single nutrients or compounds. The report states that adults should be "encouraged and guided to consume dietary patterns that are rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in low- and non-fat dairy products and alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains."

It is not necessary to eliminate food groups or conform to a single dietary pattern to achieve healthy dietary patterns, the report notes.

Evidence suggests that a healthy dietary patterns could help people maintain a healthy body weight and reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, both of which link to cancer risk. It links healthy dietary patterns with reduced risk of colorectal and post-menopausal breast cancer specifically.

- Be physically active: The dietary report also included physical activity, given the growing recognition that "a healthy diet and regular physical activity is central to promoting overall health and preventing many chronic diseases."

After reviewing the evidence, they found that compared to less active people, physically active adults have a healthier body weight and body composition, along with improved bone health and numerous other health benefits. Higher amounts of physical activity linked to lower rates of two cancers specifically - colon cancer and breast cancer - along with lower all-cause mortality and many other chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

For cancer prevention, AICR recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate activity daily. AICR research links physical activity to lower risk of post-menopausal, endometrial, and colorectal cancers. cancers.

You can submit comments on the DGAC report online, and in person. Visit the Public Comment section of the report for more information.

Sources: Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (Advisory Report). February 19, 2015.

Ervin RB, Ogden CL. Consumption of added sugars among U.S. adults, 2005–2010. NCHS data brief, no 122. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2013.

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PAG). 2008.

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    Published on March 4, 2015

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