Learning from breast cancer survivors and weight loss


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A study published in July and shared by the American Institute for Cancer Research shares how diet and exercise affect breast cancer survivors, and the impact is fantastic.

Good morning and welcome to the Ben Garves Podcast - a show at the intersection of health, activism, and technology. I’m your host, Ben Garves.

Mya Nelson, a science writer for the AICR (American Institute of Cancer Research), says, “There are plenty of reasons why breast cancer survivors who are overweight or obese after treatment may be advised to shed weight. Research indicates that (sic) obesity increases the risk of cancer recurrence and even earlier death in women diagnosed with breast cancer. Too much body fat also increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions that can have serious effects.”

It’s no big shock that keeping a healthy and active lifestyle can help deflect negative impacts of chronic disease, especially as we age. Mya goes on to say it’s important to also be mindful that just losing weight through diet and not through exercise can be detrimental, because it implies muscle loss unless you stay physically active.

Here’s a little bit about the study itself. It took a look at 351 survivors of breast cancer who underwent treatment within six months of the study’s start. Those 351 survivors, averaging 60 years of age and categorized as overweight or obese, were separated into four groups, each with a different concentration. The first group focused on exercise, the second on diet, the third on diet and exercise combined, and the fourth group received no guidance for their lifestyles and served as the control group. To clarify - that group was told to seek advice from their typical care providers about guidance on exercise and nutrition.

The study ran for a year, during which the women in the group assigned to exercise took on both resistance and aerobic training in-person and at home. The group focusing on diet and nutrition met with dietitians on a regular basis and were given a set diet for five months, then dove into some behavior modifications in how they shopped and prepared food. They had a set goal to lose ten percent of their weight with an emphasis on consuming veggies and fruit. Finally, the combined diet and exercise group focused on exercise for six weeks before adding in a nutrition element.

At the end of the year, the diet group averaged six percent bodyweight loss and the combined group lost a little over seven percent. While the exercise group didn’t average any weight loss, it’s worth pointing out that the study didn’t focus on body composition change and that group was very likely to have a much more-healthy muscle-to-fat ratio after a year of exercise. It also points out how valuable nutrition is, in addition to exercise, if you’re looking to make an overall weight change in addition to getting physically fit.

That wraps it up for today. Thanks for listening to the Ben Garves Podcast, at the intersection of health, activism, and technology. Don’t forget, Fitness is for Everyone™.