Friday, May 25, 2012

Cancer and Obesity

Yesterday, I attended the 2012 Annual Retreat on Cancer Research in NJ at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ Medical School in Piscataway. The conference was presented  by the Cancer Institute of NJ (CINJ) and the NJ Commission on Cancer Research. This year's sessions for medical professionals focused on areas such as Cell Death, Genomic Instability,Tumor Progression, Cancer Pharmacology, Preclinical Therapeutics and Clinical Investigations.

I attended the Public Forum again this year.( Last year's event was on Survivorship.)  The forum was titled Kids and Cancer:  the Obesity Connection but it offered information about adult obesity too.

After welcoming the standing room only crowd Peter Gillies, Ph.D, NJ Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health shared these facts.

  • 1 in 3 children are obese
  • 2 in 3 adults are obese
  • We spend 190 Billion dollars a year because of obesity
  • NJ is one of the worst states in the US in terms of obesity

John Milner, Ph.D, Chief Nutritional Science Research Group at the NCI, was the keynote speaker. What an informative lecture ! He spoke about the myths of cancer and obesity with facts and studies. Here are a just few myths he mentioned:

  • Risk of obesity has plateaued Not true- obesity in the US will continue to increase unless we do something now.
  • All people are equally susceptible to obesity . Not true. African Americans are more prone to obesity than Hispanics who are more prone to obesity than Caucasians.
  • We all respond identically to food items. Not true. In studies some people who used olive oil gained weight , some people lost weight.
  • Food availability and not genetics makes me eat Not true. Sure having lots of sweets available in our environment may make us eat more of them but how our individual bodies break them down , use and stores them may be genetic.

There are many things that influence obesity. The amount of food we eat, the types of food we eat , the amount we exercise, our genetic make-up including hormone level are important so controlling our weight ( loss or gain ) should be approached in a more personalized manner. One diet does not fit all.

Dr Milner's talk was followed by these related topics.

  • Elisa Bandera, M.D., Ph.D an epidemiologist from CINJ spoke about Childhood Obesity and Timing of Puberty :Implications for Future Health and her current study Jersey Girls. Jersey Girls hopes to answer the question whether or not girls with earlier puberty become obese? 
  • Chung Yang, Ph.D ( Rutgers University) clarified  Does Vitamin E Prevent or Promote Cancer in his studies of Vitamin E (Tocopherols). He  found that Alpha molecules like those found in vitamin E tablets were good nutritionally but failed to prevent  cancer while the gamma and delta molecules showed preventative properties.  
  • Tracy Anthony, Ph.D (Rutgers) introduced Dietary Macro nutrients and Their Influence on Appetite and Weight Control with how the USDA guidelines for good nutrition have changed from the food pyramid to MyPlate. She spoke about amino acids, which make up proteins like leucine,  and their role in good nutrition and the need to spread out our protein intake throughout the days meals not just at dinner. 

After the talks were complete, I spent time looking at posters on CD-44 and Vitamin D,  chronic care and health beliefs in older breast cancer survivors, and sun protection and exposure behaviors among Hispanics.

On my drive home I reflected on all the information I had heard from NJ's very own researchers. What a benefit it is to live in a state in which there is such a wonderful collaboration between CINJ cancer center researchers and academic researchers especially those at Rutgers University ( my alma mater).

Every Day is a Blessing!

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