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Energy Dense Foods Linked to Cancer Risk


Obesity isn't the only factor to increase cancer risk

December brings cold weather in addition to seasonal favorites like peppermint mochas and decadent dishes that are generally high in calories.  New research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics cautions us to be wary of over consuming energy dense foods like these over the holidays as well as throughout the year. 

While the connection between obesity and cancer has been established, in this case researchers focused on dietary energy density (DED) as related to obesity-associated cancers in just over 90,000 women aged 50-79 years old.   In other words, they reviewed calories of self-reported food choices in relation to cancer instead of comparing weights and obesity status.   

Interestingly, they discovered a 10% increase in cancer among normal weight women who consumed high DED foods.  Lead investigator, Cynthia A. Thomson PhD, RD and Professor of Health Promotion Sciences at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health in Tucson, AZ, explained that initial thoughts around weight management alone as a way to reduce obesity related cancer may not be enough and women should consider avoiding high DED foods in order to evade obesity related cancers. 

Here’s a suggestion.  During a season where high DED foods are plentiful and it may be a challenge to get your veggies in, set yourself up for success by having a wholesome breakfast and lunch especially on days when there will be a holiday party in the evening.  We suggest starting the day with Smoked Salmon Breakfast SaladWinter Citrus Salad makes a refreshing lunch, simply top off with your protein of choice such a beans or canned salmon. 

At the event, cocktail hour and dessert tables are usually danger zones. Choose foods like crudité and shrimp cocktail instead of high DED foods like cubed cheese and cured meats as appetizers.  And when it comes time for dessert, choose something fruit based.  You could even offer to bring one so you know exactly what’s in it! 

Making healthful food choices is something to be mindful of year round and in light of these new findings, it’s especially important during the holidays.  

Note:  Dietary energy density (DED) is a ratio of calories to nutrients.  Whole foods, including fruits and vegetables, lean protein and beans are considered low-DED.  

Published December 1, 2017

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