According to the American Cancer Society, over 45,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year–yet a new study from the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center says your biggest risk may be the way you diet.
The study, which is said to hold “significant implications” for Americans who don’t necessarily eat a healthy diet, has many doctors worried, according to recent reports.
“The development of these lesions in mice is very similar to what happens in humans,” says Dr. Guido Eibl, lead author of the study. “These lesions take a long time to develop into cancer, so there is enough time for cancer preventive strategies, such as changing to a lower fat, lower calorie diet, to have a positive effect.”
Testing out a hypothesis, Eibl and his team of researchers had a group of mice follow two diets: A normal diet and a diet rich in calories and fat. Carrying out the study over a period of 14 months, Eibl observed how each diet affected a mouse’s pancreatic cancer risk–and the results clearly demonstrated that indulging in fattening, high calorie treats regularly heightened their cancer risk.
“The study showed that the mice fed a diet high in fats and calories gained significantly more weight, had abnormalities in their metabolism and increased insulin levels, and displayed marked pancreas tissue inflammation and development of pancreas intraepithelial neoplasias,” says Shaun Mason, who originally released the study’s findings on UCLA’s website. “These observations strongly suggest that such a diet leads to weight gain and metabolism disturbances, can cause pancreas inflammation, and promotes pancreas lesions that are precursors to cancer.”
For mice who ate a normal diet, the benefits were easy to see: They maintained a normal weight while having few lesions and healthy pancreases. Mice who ate a high-calorie, high-fat diet however gained an average of 7.2 grams, with marked increases in lesions and reduced function of their pancreases.
The take home point here? If you’re currently eating a diet high in calories and fat, chances are you’re increasing your risk of pancreatic cancer–a cancer considered one of the “deadliest,” according to the American Cancer Society.
How to Change Your Bad Diet
If you’re one of the millions of Americans who currently eats a high-fat, high-calorie diet, then it’s bad news for you: Continuing to eat a bad diet could increase your cancer risk. So how do you fix your bad eating habits? The President’s Council of Fitness, Sports and Nutrition recommends the following strategies:
- Half of your plate should contain fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in calories and contain soluble and insoluble fiber, which help promote digestion, as well as keep hunger at bay. For your best bet, brightly-colored vegetables and fruits are the best options due to their high nutrient and vitamin content.
- Choose lean protein. While deep fried steak, breaded chicken breasts, or pork smothered in gravy is a good way to satisfy your appetite, it’s rarely healthy–and it’s more likely to add unnecessary bad fats to your diet. Your best option: Choose lean protein sources instead, such as low fat chicken, turkey, seafood, or egg whites. For a vegan alternative, beans and peas are a great protein source that will fill you up in a pinch.
- Opt for water as your main beverage source. Soda, energy drinks, or milk are great ways to quench your thirst, but often contain too many calories–most likely thanks to their high sugar content. For a healthier kick, opt for water or lightly flavored water instead as a way to improve your health.
Readers: What are some other ways you eat a healthy diet?