Obese Boys at Higher Risk of Inflammation, Bowel Cancer

boy_eating_burgerThis month as we focus on men’s health, it is important to remember that healthy habits start early. With obesity rates rising steadily among American children, teaching our adolescent and teenage boys the value of a wholesome diet and an active lifestyle is now more important than ever, especially in light of a new report.

Researchers from the United States and Sweden recently completed an analysis of more than 240,000 boys between the ages of 16 and 20 to determine whether or not being heavier at a young age affected bowel health later in life. As it turns out, the more weight the boys carried, the higher their risk of developing bowel cancer as well as widespread inflammation.

Over a period of more than three decades, researchers monitored the boys’ height and weight as well as inflammation levels in the body and found that those who were “very overweight” or obese in young adulthood—with a BMI ranging from 27.5 to over 30—doubled their risk of developing bowel cancer in adulthood in their 50s. In addition, those with a high inflammation rate were 65% more likely to develop bowel cancer, spotlighting the relationship between chronic inflammation and disease.

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and the third most common cancer in men and in women.i Report authors point out the importance of advocating a healthy diet and lifestyle early on to promote bowel health and wellness later in life.

i http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/statistics/

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Is Too Much Junk Food Destroying Our Good Bacteria?

Junk food is just what it sounds like: food with little or no nutritional value—mainly fast food and packaged snacks loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats. Still, Americans love it. On average we consume 30% more packaged food than fresh, and one in every four of us eats fast food every day.i The problem? Our love affair with junk is not without consequences.

Along with contributing to widespread obesity and chronic disease, junk food may be destroying the healthy bacteria in our guts that make up the majority of our immune system. This new data comes from a study conducted by Tim Spector, a professor of epidemiology at King’s College London and author of the book, The Diet Myth.

It turns out folks in the UK love junk food just as much as we do, so Spector decided to do a small experiment to see just how an unhealthy diet affects the gut. He asked his 23-year-old son Tom to spend 10 days eating nothing but fast food burgers, fries, chicken nuggets, and cola. Fecal samples were taken both before and after the experiment to measure gut bacteria diversity.

Even though Tom started out with around 3,500 bacterial species in his gut, that number shrank to 2,200 after not even two weeks on a predominantly fast food diet. That means he lost roughly 1,300 species—including half of his beneficial Bifidobacteria—and his gut diversity was drastically reduced. And, while he stuck it out to the end, Tom admits feeling lethargic and ill just three days into the study.

The more we learn about gut diversity, the more scientists have come to realize that a diverse microbiome plays a vital role in healthy living and weight management. Thankfully, Spector points out that we can shift back toward a healthy balance by way of a varied, healthful, and more natural diet. By cutting out junk food and swapping sugar, starchy carbs, and unhealthy fats for a diet rich in non-starchy vegetables, low-sugar fruits, fermented foods, healthy fats, and protein, experts believe we can increase gut bacteria diversity and promote optimal well-being.

i https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-american-eating-habits

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