Overweight and Cancer Risk, Vitamin C Sources Other Than Oranges, and Multi-grain vs Whole Grain

Q: How does being overweight increase risk of getting cancer?
Q: What fruits besides oranges are high in vitamin C?
Q: What’s the difference between “multi-grain” and “whole grain”?


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

Q: How does being overweight increase risk of getting cancer?
A: Researchers don’t know for sure how being overweight raises our cancer risk, but studies clearly show that it does raise risk of cancers of the colon, esophagus, breast (post-menopausal), uterus, kidney, pancreas and gallbladder. Body fat is not just extra weight we carry around; it is active tissue that influences several metabolic processes related to cancer development. Excess body fat tends to promote insulin resistance, a condition in which higher than normal levels of insulin are needed to control blood sugar. High levels of insulin and insulin-related growth factors seem to promote the development of at least some cancers. Body fat also produces substances called cytokines, which can stimulate a generalized inflammation throughout the body. The inflammatory condition can prompt normal cells to develop into cancer cells. The connection between excess weight and esophageal cancer may lie with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Excess weight is linked to GERD, which damages cells lining the esophagus and leaves them vulnerable to carcinogens. After menopause, body fat becomes a source of estrogen production. Excess fat can raise levels of estrogen, promoting development of estrogen-sensitive cancers of the breast and uterus. Other links between weight and cancer risk are also under study.

Q: What fruits besides oranges are high in vitamin C?
A: Some of the fruits most concentrated in vitamin C per serving (along with oranges) include cantaloupe, grapefruit, guava, honeydew melon, kiwi, mangoes, papayas, raspberries, starfruit (also called carambola), strawberries and tangerines. Each serving supplies at least 25 to 30 percent of recommended amounts of vitamin C for a whole day. Lots of other fruits supply smaller amounts, and don’t forget that many vegetables also provide vitamin C. It’s a good idea to eat at least one fruit or vegetable each day that is a good source of vitamin C. But reaching a healthy level of vitamin C is usually not a problem if you eat a variety of the seven to ten servings of fruits and vegetables recommended for most adults.

Q: What’s the difference between “multi-grain” and “whole grain”?
A: Multi-grain simply indicates that a product is made from more than one kind of grain. For example, a multi-grain bread or cereal could be made from a combination of wheat, oats and barley. The term does not give any information about whether the grains included are whole or refined grains. Whole grain means the product includes the grain’s bran and germ, which contain fiber, magnesium, vitamin B-6 and vitamin E. No matter how many grains are used in the multi-grain, if the bran and germ of the grain are removed the amount of cancer preventive nutrients and phytochemicals decreases. Check the ingredient list to see if the grains are listed as whole grains. If not, enjoy multi-grain products but be sure to include several whole grain foods each day.

Reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Cancer Research www.aicr.org

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