Cream Cheese and Calcium, Bladder Cancer and Diet, Exercise Guidelines

Q: How does cream cheese rank as a source of calcium and protein?
Q: Is bladder cancer related to diet?
Q: Do the new exercise guidelines recommend that all Americans take up weight lifting?

Nutrition Wise
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: How does cream cheese rank as a source of calcium and protein?

A: Unlike other types of cheese, cream cheese is not a good source of these important nutrients. Two tablespoons (one ounce) of cream cheese supplies only about 28 milligrams (mg) of calcium and less than 2 grams of protein. That’s much less than the amount found in an ounce of most hard cheeses (such as Cheddar or Swiss), which typically provide about 200 mg of calcium and 7 grams of protein. Fat-free and reduced-fat cream cheese products are more concentrated, but are still not considered good sources of these nutrients. If you want to use cream cheese occasionally, choose a reduced-fat type to avoid a big load of saturated fat and treat it as a condiment, not a source of nutrition.

Q: Is bladder cancer related to diet?

A: According to the latest major report on diet and cancer risk from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), neither food nor physical activity are significant factors in the development of bladder cancer. Smoking tobacco is one of the major causes and, in northern Africa and parts of Asia, a common parasitic disease is a significant cause. Carcinogens from diet, tobacco smoke, industrial chemicals and other environmental sources, are often excreted in the urine, which exposes the bladder lining to these toxins. According to the AICR report, limited evidence suggests that arsenic in drinking water may increase risk of this cancer and that milk may protect against it, but we need more research to clarify these effects. Mutations of certain genes may be related to a significant share of bladder cancers.

Q: Do the new exercise guidelines recommend that all Americans take up weight lifting?

A: Not exactly: The latest recommendations (including the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and the 2007 recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and American Heart Association) both agree that muscle strengthening activities benefit most people. They recommend performing 8 to 10 different strength training exercises at a moderate- or high-intensity level at least two days a week. This should include exercises for the upper and lower legs, hips, back, chest, shoulders, abdomen and arms. Strength-training does not have to mean weight-lifting, however. The goal can also be accomplished with resistance bands, calisthenics that push against body weight (such as push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups), or even yard work with heavy digging and lifting. Appropriate muscle-strengthening activities for children include those listed above as well as some types of recreational play like climbing on playground equipment and trees or playing games like tug-of-war. According to the ACSM, strength training is especially important for adults over 65, so they should aim for two to three sessions each week. The new federal guidelines suggest that older adults who are unable to follow the general adult guidelines should be as active as their physical condition allows.

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