Excess belly fat increases older women’s risk of some cancers, new research suggests

October 11th, 2017

Researchers followed nearly 5,900 Danish postmenopausal women for up to 12 years and found that abdominal fat was a bigger factor than body weight when it came to the risk of lung and gastrointestinal cancers.

The findings highlight the need for weight management priorities for older women, who are prone to abdominal weight gain, according to study author Line Maersk Staunstrup, a doctoral student at Nordic Bioscience ProScion in Denmark.

“The average elderly women can very much use this information, as it is known that the menopause transition initiates a shift in body fat towards the central trunk area. Therefore elderly women should be especially aware of their lifestyle when they approach the pre-menopause age,” she said in a society news release.

Commenting on the study, Dr. Andrea De Censi, director of medical oncology at Galliera Hospital in Genoa, Italy, said the findings confirm the role that obesity, and particularly insulin resistance, play in several cancers.

“Increases in insulin, resulting from overconsumption of simple carbohydrates such as potatoes, wheat, rice and corn, result in fat accumulation that is specifically visceral and abdominal,” he said.

Insulin also has a harmful effect on hormone production, and excess fat boosts chronic inflammation throughout the body, another risk factor for several cancers, he said.

This data opens the door for physicians to initiate a number of interventions in obese patients, and contribute to cancer prevention.

For a medically designed weight loss program, please contact us to learn more about the Ideal Protein weight loss method. Book your appointment today to meet with our wellness coach and begin your journey to a healthier you!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month: What You Need to Know and How You Can Help

October 5th, 2017

Thanks to earlier detection –through screening and increased awareness— and better treatments, a woman’s risk of dying of breast dropped 38 percent between the late 1980s and 2014, translating into 297,300 fewer breast cancer deaths during that time.

However, there’s much more to be done. Breast cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Only lung cancer kills more women each year. And there remains a large racial gap in mortality, with African-American women having 42 percent higher death rates compared to whites. The chance that a woman will die from breast cancer is about 1 in 37 (about 2.7 percent).

If you or someone you love is concerned about developing breast cancer, have been recently diagnosed, are going through treatment, or are trying to stay well after treatment, the American Cancer Society can help you find the answers you need.

The Facts:

The American Cancer Society’s estimates for breast cancer in the United States for 2017 are:

  • About 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
  • About 63,410 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
  • About 40,610 women will die from breast cancer.
  • While black and white women get breast cancer at roughly the same rate, black women are more likely to die from it.

At this time, there are more than 3.1 million people with a history of breast cancer in the United States. (This includes women still being treated and those who have completed treatment.)

Risk factors:

  • Limited but accumulating research indicates that smoking may slightly increase breast cancer risk, particularly long-term, heavy smoking and among women who start smoking before their first pregnancy.
  • Obesity increases the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. Risk is about 1.5 times higher in overweight women and about 2 times higher in obese women than in lean women.
  • Growing evidence suggests that women who get regular physical activity have a 10%-25% lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who are inactive, with stronger evidence for postmenopausal than premenopausal women.
  • Numerous studies have confirmed that alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast cancer in women by about 7%-10% for each one drink of alcohol consumed per day on average. Women who have 2-3 alcoholic drinks per day have a 20 percent higher risk of breast cancer compared to non-drinkers.

What You Can Do to Help

There’s more to awareness than just wearing pink!

Be aware of breast cancer risks, the value of screening and early detection, and treatment options available to women and men who are diagnosed with one of the many forms of breast cancer.



Health officials report link between obesity and 40 percent of all the cancers diagnosed in the United States

October 4th, 2017

That doesn’t mean too much weight is causing all these cancer cases, just that there’s some kind of still-to-be explained association, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, the study findings suggest that being obese or overweight was associated with cancer cases involving more than 630,000 Americans in 2014, and this includes 13 types of cancer.

“That obesity and overweight are affecting cancers may be surprising to many Americans. The awareness of some cancers being associated with obesity and overweight is not yet widespread,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC deputy director.

The 13 cancers include: brain cancer; multiple myeloma; cancer of the esophagus; postmenopausal breast cancer; cancers of the thyroid, gallbladder, stomach, liver, pancreas, kidney, ovaries, uterus and colon, the researchers said.

Dr. Lisa Richardson, director of CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, said early evidence indicates that losing weight can lower the risk for some cancers.

According to the new report from the CDC and the U.S. National Cancer Institute, these 13 obesity-related cancers made up about 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States in 2014.

Although the rate of new cancer cases has decreased since the 1990s, increases in overweight and obesity-related cancers are likely slowing this progress, the researchers said.

Of the 630,000 Americans diagnosed with a cancer associated with overweight or obesity in 2014, about two out of three occurred in adults aged 50 to 74, the researchers found.

Excluding colon cancer, the rate of obesity-related cancer increased by 7 percent between 2005 and 2014. During the same time, rates of non-obesity-related cancers dropped, the findings showed.

In 2013-2014, about two out of three American adults were overweight or obese, according to the report.

For the study, researchers analyzed 2014 cancer data from the United States Cancer Statistics report and data from 2005 to 2014.

Key findings include:

  • Of all cancers, 55 percent in women and 24 percent in men were associated with overweight and obesity.
  • Blacks and whites had higher rates of weight-related cancer than other racial or ethnic groups.
  • Black men and American Indian/Alaska Native men had higher rates of cancer than white men.
  • Cancers linked to obesity increased 7 percent between 2005 and 2014, but colon cancer decreased 23 percent. Screening for colon cancer is most likely the reason for that cancer’s continued decline, Schuchat said.
  • Cancers not linked to obesity dropped 13 percent.
  • Except for colon cancer, cancers tied to overweight and obesity increased among those younger than 75.

Dr. Farhad Islami, strategic director of cancer surveillance research for the American Cancer Society, said it’s “important to note that only a fraction of the cancers included in the calculation in this report are actually caused by excess body weight.”

According to Islami, “many are attributable to other known risk factors, like smoking, while for many others, the cause is unknown. Obesity is more strongly associated with some cancers than others.”

The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that “20 percent of all cancers in the United States are caused by a combination of excess body weight, physical inactivity, excess alcohol, and poor nutrition. The American Cancer Society is currently doing its own extensive calculation of the numbers and proportions of cancer cases attributable to excess body weight, the results of which will be published soon,” he said.

For information on our medically designed weight loss method, please contact your Gastroenterologist at 281.480.6264

Study show that Popular Heartburn Drugs Don’t Raise Risk of Alzheimer’s

September 28th, 2017

The study published recently in the American Journal of Gastroenterolog shows that widely used heartburn drugs called proton pump inhibitors do not appear to increase Alzheimer’s disease risk.

Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid are commonly used proton pump inhibitors.

Two previous studies reported a higher risk of dementia among people who took the drugs, which are commonly used by older adults. Proton pump inhibitors work by reducing the production of stomach acid.

But this new study found that use of the drugs was not associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s, even among those who took a higher dose or used the drugs for more than three years.

The findings are from an analysis of data from Finland on nearly 71,000 Alzheimer’s disease patients and nearly 283,000 people without the disease.

The study shows people need not avoid the drugs due to fears about developing Alzheimer’s, said the University of Eastern Finland researchers led by Heidi Taipale, a postdoctoral researcher.

But long-term use should be carefully considered, because it has been linked with decreased calcium and vitamin B12 absorption and with serious intestinal infections, the study authors said in a university news release.

The researchers said more than one-third of older persons use proton pump inhibitors.

For more information, please contact your gastroenterologist at Bay Area Gastroenterology at 281.480.6264

Bowel and Gas Problem News

September 26th, 2017

Gas is produced every time your body digests food. As the food breaks down in the digestive tract, various gases are released, leaving the body through the mouth in the form of a belch or the anus in the form of flatulence.

Some people worry that large amounts of gas might be a sign of a medical problem. This is rarely the case, but some conditions do have excess flatulence as a potential symptom.

Causes of Gas:

Most of the time, however, gas is nothing more than a byproduct of eating food. And it is true that some foods and liquids cause more gas than others. Breads, pasta and other carbohydrate-heavy foods are great gas-producers. So are high-fiber foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. And carbonated beverages are also known for producing excess gas.

In some people, certain medications — antibiotics, laxatives and chemotherapy drugs, for instance — may contribute to gassiness, too. And other medical problems, including diarrhea, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome, exhibit excess gas as a symptom.


Most of the time, you can reduce gas simply by choosing foods that produce less gas or by eating smaller amounts of food in more frequent meals and snacks. It also helps to take in less air when you’re eating or drinking. Avoiding the use of a straw, for instance, can help with this. Some light exercise after eating, like walking, can aid digestion and prevent the buildup of gas.

There are also over-the-counter medications specifically designed for reducing gas. And if gas is related to a more serious health condition, then you may want to speak to a doctor about other steps needed to treat the gas as well as the other symptoms of the condition.

For more information, please contact your gastroenterologist at Bay Area Gastroenterology at 281.480.6264

Irregularity and Constipation News According to the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons

September 22nd, 2017

Irregularity and constipation both refer to difficulty passing a stool in a normal manner. But the nature of irregularity and constipation can vary widely from person to person. Some people don’t have bowel movements frequently enough, while others have small bowel movements, a sense of an incomplete bowel movement or difficulty passing a stool without intense pushing or straining. Others require supportive means like laxatives or enemas to pass a stool at all.

Bowel movement habits vary considerably, and anything from three times a day to three times a week can be considered normal. However, if constipation is long-lasting or causing other health complications, a doctor should be consulted about options for relieving constipation.

Causes of Constipation

For many people with constipation, the primary cause of the problem is simply not getting enough fiber in their daily diet. Fiber is a food component that helps promote healthy bowel movements, and consuming 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day is recommended in order to have healthy stools. Fiber intake can be increased by eating more fiber-rich foods.

Constipation can occur for other reasons, too. For example, it’s related to many medical conditions, such as colon problems, diabetes and spinal cord injuries. It’s also a side effect of many medications.


For many people, constipation can be alleviated by including more fiber-rich foods in the daily diet. These include prunes, apricots, raisins, beans, vegetables and whole-grain breads and cereals. At the same time, some foods — including bananas, rice and refined breads and pastas — have a tendency to bind you up and should be avoided. Fiber supplements, laxatives, suppositories and enemas can relieve constipation, but they can be overused so it’s best to consult with a doctor before using such products.

Some forms of constipation can be treated by relieving the underlying medical problem or by changing medications. When constipation is due to some form of physical problem in the colon or digestive tract, surgery may be required to achieve long-term relief.

For more information, please contact your gastroenterologist at Bay Area Gastroenterology at 281.480.6264


September 20th, 2017

The term “gastrointestinal” refers to the body’s stomach and intestines, which are parts of the digestive system. Along with other organs in the digestive system, these parts of the body aid in the digestion of food and the elimination of waste.

What Happens in the Gastrointestinal Organs

Once food and liquid pass through the mouth and the esophagus, they reach the stomach, where three distinct actions occur. First, the stomach stores the food and liquid consumed, and it’s able to expand in order to do so. Second, it produces digestive juices and mixes them with the food and liquid to begin the digestion process. Finally, the stomach slowly releases the digested material into the small intestine.

Once in the small intestine, digestion of these materials continues. Juices from the liver, pancreas and intestine aid in this process. At this stage, the digested nutrients pass through the intestinal walls, where they enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. Other portions of the digested material continue through the intestinal tract as waste. The waste passes from the small intestine to the large intestine and ultimately is removed from the body with a bowel movement.

Problems With the Gastrointestinal Organs

A wide variety of problems can affect the gastrointestinal tract. They range from mild annoyances like flatulence or acid reflux to life-threatening conditions like stomach or colon cancer. Some people develop inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, which cause symptoms such as abdominal pain and diarrhea. Ulcers are another problem that can frequently impact the stomach, and constipation is also commonly related to problems in the gastrointestinal tract. Treatment for gastrointestinal problems vary widely, depending on the cause and severity of the problem.

Whole grains decrease colorectal cancer risk, processed meats increase the risk

September 14th, 2017

Eating whole grains daily, such as brown rice or whole-wheat bread, reduces colorectal cancer risk, with the more you eat the lower the risk, finds a new report by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF). This is the first time AICR/WCRF research links whole grains independently to lower cancer risk.

Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Colorectal Cancer also found that hot dogs, bacon and other processed meats consumed regularly increase the risk of this cancer. There was strong evidence that physical activity protects against colon cancer.

“Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers, yet this report demonstrates there is a lot people can do to dramatically lower their risk,” said Edward L. Giovannucci, MD, ScD, lead author of the report and professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. “The findings from this comprehensive report are robust and clear: Diet and lifestyle have a major role in colorectal cancer.”

The new report evaluated the scientific research worldwide on how diet, weight and physical activity affect colorectal cancer risk. The report analyzed 99 studies, including data on 29 million people, of whom over a quarter of a million were diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Other factors found to increase colorectal cancer include:

  • Eating high amounts of red meat (above 500 grams cooked weight a week), such as beef or pork
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Consuming two or more daily alcoholic drinks (30 grams of alcohol), such as wine or beer

Lowering Risk with Fiber, Activity and Grains

The report concluded that eating approximately three servings (90 grams) of whole grains daily reduces the risk of colorectal cancer by 17 percent.

It adds to previous evidence showing that foods containing fiber decreases the risk of this cancer.

For physical activity, people who are more physically active have a lower risk of colon cancer compared to those who do very little physical activity. Here, the decreased risk was apparent for colon and not rectal cancer.

In the US, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among both men and women, with an estimated 371 cases diagnosed each day. AICR estimates that 47 percent of US colorectal cancer cases could be prevented each year through healthy lifestyle changes.

Notes Giovannucci: “Many of the ways to help prevent colorectal cancer are important for overall health. Factors such as maintaining a lean body weight, proper exercise, limiting red and processed meat and eating more whole grains and fiber would lower risk substantially. Moreover, limiting alcohol to at most two drinks per day and avoidance or cessation of smoking also lower risk.”

Fish, Fruits and Vegetables, Emerging Evidence

The report found other links between diet and colorectal cancer that were visible but not as clear. There was limited evidence that risk increases with low intake of both non-starchy vegetables and fruit. A higher risk was observed for intakes of less than 100 grams per day (about a cup) of each.

Links to lowering risk of colorectal cancer was with fish and foods containing vitamin C. Oranges, strawberries and spinach are all foods high in vitamin C.

The research continues to emerge for these factors, but it all points to the power of a plant-based diet, says Alice Bender, MS, RDN, AICR Director of Nutrition Programs.

“Replacing some of your refined grains with whole grains and eating mostly plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables and beans, will give you a diet packed with cancer-protective compounds and help you manage your weight, which is so important to lower risk.”

“When it comes to cancer there are no guarantees, but it’s clear now there are choices you can make and steps you can take to lower your risk of colorectal and other cancers,” said Bender.


Acid Reflux? Try Going Vegetarian!

September 11th, 2017

A mostly vegetarian diet may provide relief similar to widely used medications for people with acid reflux, a new study suggests.

The study looked at close to 200 patients at one medical center who had been diagnosed with laryngopharyngeal reflux.

It’s a condition where stomach acids habitually back up into the throat, and it’s distinct from the much better-known gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) — or what most people call heartburn.

People with laryngopharyngeal reflux usually don’t have heartburn, explained Dr. Craig Zalvan, the lead researcher on the new study.

Instead, they have symptoms like hoarseness, chronic sore throat, persistent coughing, excessive throat clearing and a feeling of a lump in the throat.

Still, the problem is often treated with GERD drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). PPIs include prescription and over-the-counter drugs like Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium, and they rank among the top-selling medications in the United States.

PPIs do help some people with laryngopharyngeal reflux, said Zalvan. He’s chief of otolaryngology at Northwell Health System’s Phelps Hospital, in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.  Zalvan, himself, used to prescribe them regularly.

However, it became clear that the medications were not effective for many patients, Zalvan said. At the same time, he noted, studies began raising concerns that PPIs are not as safe as thought.

Research has linked prolonged PPI use to slightly increased risks of heart attack, kidney disease, dementia and bone fractures — though it’s not clear whether the drugs are the cause.

For Zalvan, it all led to a new direction: prescribing a “dietary approach.”

Based on research into diet and various chronic ills, Zalvan began advising patients to take up a mostly vegetarian diet that he describes as “Mediterranean style.”

He encouraged patients to go 90-percent plant-based — eating mainly vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains and nuts. Meat and dairy were to be limited to two or three modest servings per week.

In addition, Zalvan gave his patients the standard reflux-soothing advice to avoid coffee, tea, alcohol and fried or fatty foods.

For the new study, Zalvan’s team looked back at patient records to see how that diet approach compared with the old PPI way.

The investigators focused on 85 patients who’d been treated with PPIs and standard diet advice between 2010 and 2012, and 99 who’d been advised to go mostly vegetarian.

When it came to treating the patients’ symptoms, “the diet was as good, if not better than, PPIs,” Zalvan said.

After six weeks, 63 percent of patients on the diet were showing at least a 6-point drop on a scale called the reflux symptom index. That’s considered a “clinically meaningful” improvement, Zalvan noted.

That compared with 54 percent of PPI patients, according to the report.

According to Zalvan, patients in the diet group typically lost eight pounds — which may help explain their symptom improvement. But it’s not possible to tell how much credit goes to the weight loss, versus the diet itself.

Sonya Angelone is a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, who recommends a largely plant-based diet for managing acid reflux.

What’s critical is picking healthy plant foods, Angelone said — creating a diet high in beans, vegetables and nuts, not pasta and bagels.

Healthy plant foods tend to calm inflammation in the body, Angelone explained, whereas a diet heavy in processed foods does the opposite.

And there’s been a growing understanding of acid reflux as an inflammatory disorder, Angelone said. That is, the acid itself might not do the real damage; the body’s inflammatory response may.

“I think this study offers more evidence that you should aim to eat more plants and fewer processed foods,” Angelone said.

Zalvan acknowledged the study’s limitations. It was not a clinical trial that specifically tested the vegetarian diet against medication, which is considered the “gold standard” for proving a treatment works.

Plus, it’s not clear whether patients have to rigorously stick with the 90-percent vegetarian plan — or whether more-moderate changes would do the trick.

What’s important, Angelone said, is that people make healthy changes they can live with for the long haul.

“Your diet choices matter,” she said. “They matter in your risk of chronic diseases down the road, and in more-immediate symptoms like acid reflux.”


Keep Colon Cancer at Bay!

September 8th, 2017

Colon cancer is the fourth most common cancer worldwide and the third most common in the United States. It is also the fourth most common cause of cancer-related deaths globally.

Rates are rising, with experts projecting a nearly 60 percent increase in new colon cancer cases by the year 2032.

For reducing colon cancer risk, whole grains and regular exercise are a must, while processed meats and alcohol should be limited, a large research review finds.

Three servings (about 3 ounces) a day of whole grains — such as brown rice or whole-wheat bread — may lower colon cancer risk by 17 percent, according to a new report from the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund International.

And greater consumption of whole grains confers even more protection, said the researchers, who evaluated close to 100 studies. Among more than 29 million adult participants, about 250,000 had colon cancer.

“The extensive review of the scientific literature revealed that colorectal cancer is largely preventable through a healthy diet and lifestyle,” said report panel member Dr. Edward Giovannucci.

“Maintaining a healthy body weight, physical activity, a healthy diet, and avoiding smoking and high alcohol intake all contribute to lower risk of colorectal cancer,” added Giovannucci, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Based on their analysis, the researchers recommend limiting red meat, such as beef or pork, to no more than 500 grams (cooked weight) a week. That’s about 17 ounces or just over a pound.

Also, eat little, or no, processed meat such as ham, hot dogs and bacon, the report suggests.

Being overweight or obese, or drinking two or more alcoholic drinks (30 grams) a day were also linked to greater colon cancer risk.

“A healthy diet should include an emphasis on high-fiber whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and less on highly processed grains or starchy foods, especially those high in added sugars and fats,” Giovannucci said.

Other sources of dietary fiber, dairy products and calcium supplementation were also deemed beneficial for lowering colon cancer risk. However, supplements will not take the place of a healthy diet.

Risk has previously been linked to a prior history of inflammatory bowel disease and/or smoking. But the current review, which updates a 2011 report, determined that almost half of all colon cancer cases in the United States could be prevented by the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.

While whole grains and fruits and veggies topped the recommended foods, the team also observed more “limited” but noteworthy evidence that fish, foods containing vitamin C, vitamin D, and multivitamin supplements may also help to lower risk.

No conclusion could be drawn one way or another with respect to a range of other foods, including cereals, potatoes, poultry, shellfish, coffee or tea.

The report also cites strong evidence that being physically active decreases the risk of colon cancer. Recommended action: Physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day, and sitting less.

The bottom-line, said Giovannucci: “Colorectal cancer is largely preventable; it is not inevitable”.

That point was seconded by Dr. Darrell Gray, an assistant professor of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common and most deadly cancers, but it doesn’t have to be,” said Gray.

“People can’t choose their biologic parents, nor the environment into which they’re born, and these things we know influence cancer risk,” he added. “But people can control their diet and the amount of exercise they get, so they can reduce their risk for colorectal cancer.

“This very large comprehensive study really just provides further evidence that, beyond raising awareness about the importance of colorectal screening, we need to focus more attention on nutrition and lifestyle,” Gray said.

“Diet and physical exercise really matter,” he said.

Dr. Frank Sinicrope, a professor of medicine and oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., agreed. “This data provides further evidence that a healthy lifestyle and dietary habits can provide significant protection against colorectal cancer,” said Sinicrope.

These choices are under one’s control and can have a major impact on reducing the risk of developing this common cancer.

For more information, please contact your gastroenterologist at Bay Area Gastroenterology at 281.480.6264