Disease Proof

The Obesity-Disease Connection

In the opening pages of Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman makes a point that is often overlooked by the average American dieter:
Obesity is not just a cosmetic issue—extra weight leads to an earlier death, as many studies confirm.1 Overweight individuals are more likely to die from all causes, including heart disease and cancer.
Much of Dr. Fuhrman’s work strives to show people the strong correlation between diet and disease. You know the old adage, you are what you eat. Being overweight doesn’t just mean your favorite outfit is a little snug, it means you’re putting yourself at an increased risk of premature death. More from Eat to Live:
Two-thirds of those with weight problems also have hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, or another obesity related condition.2 It is a major cause of early mortality in the United States.3
Health Complications of Obesity
  • Increased overall premature mortality
  • Adult onset diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Degenerative arthritis
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Cancer
  • Lipid disorders
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Gallstones
  • Fatty infiltration of the liver
  • Restrictive lung disease
  • Gastrointestinal disease
Considering all this, this recent report from The New York Times shouldn’t be all that surprising. New research reveals being obese can make ovarian cancer even deadlier and harder to survive. Nicholas Bakalar explains:
It is well known that obesity is associated with various malignancies, including kidney, throat, breast and colon cancers. Findings about obesity and ovarian cancer have been somewhat less clear, the researchers say, but evidence from previous studies suggests that obesity predicts a worse outcome for ovarian cancer patients as well.

The scientists wanted to know whether excess fat, apart from any other health problems it might cause, had direct effects on tumor growth. They reviewed the medical records of 216 patients at Cedars-Sinai who had surgery for epithelial ovarian cancer. The data included information on height, weight, age and any other diseases. The cause of death was presumed to be cancer related if the patient had advanced recurrent disease at the time of death.

Half the patients had ideal weight, with a body mass index from 18.5 to 24.9, and 8 percent had a B.M.I. of less than 18.5, considered underweight. Twenty-six percent were overweight, with indexes exceeding 25, and 16 percent were obese, with indexes higher than 30.

The overweight and obese differed little from normal and underweight people in age or in health status, except that they had more hypertension and diabetes.

But among patients with Stage III or Stage IV disease, the most advanced stages, those with B.M.I.’s greater than 25 survived disease free for an average of 17 months, compared with 25 months for people with indexes lower than 25.

For each increase of one unit in the index, the researchers found a 4 percent increase in the risk of recurrence and a 5 percent increase in the risk of death.

This “dose response” effect strongly suggests that obesity alone is responsible for the decreased survival time, Dr. Li said.
The results of this research are pretty jarring. It seems like being obese is like dragging around an old refrigerator; it slows you down, makes you uncomfortable, creates its own problems along the way, and makes many other problems worse. Time to ditch the fridge!

Or more importantly what’s in it. Dr. Fuhrman will tell you the typical American diet rich in processed foods, saturated fats, refined sugar, and salt is a one way ticket to obesity, disease, and early death. Back to Eat to Live:
As long as you are eating fatty foods and refined carbohydrates, it is impossible to lose weight healthfully. In fact, this vicious combination of a sedentary lifestyle and eating typical “American” food (high-fat, low-fiber) is the primary reason we have such an incredibly overweight population.
On the other hand he believes the secret to healthy bodyweight, disease prevention, and increased longevity is just the opposite; a plant-based diet comprised of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds:
There is no longer any question about the importance of fruits and vegetables in our diet. The greater the quantity and assortment of fruits and vegetables consumed, the lower the incidence of heart attacks, strokes, and cancer.4
1. Must, A.,J. Spadano, E.H. Coakley, et al. 1999. The disease burden associated with overweight and obesity. JAMA 282 (16): 1523-29.

2. Clinical guidelines on the identification, evaluation, and treatment of overweight and obesity in adults. 1998. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reprint. Bethesda, Md.: National Institutes of Health.

3.Must, Spadano, et al. Op. cit.; Allison, D.B., K.R. Fontaine, J.E. Manson, et. al. 1999. Annual deaths attributable to obesity in the United States. JAMA 282 (16): 1530-38.

4. Gillman, M. W., L. A. Cupples, D. Gagnon, et al. 1995. Protective effect of fruits and vegetables on development of stroke in men. JAMA 273 (14): 1113-17; Manson, J.E., W.C. Willett, M. J. Stampfer, et al. 1994. Vegetable and fruit consumption and incidence of stroke in women, abstract. Circulation 89 (2): 932; Yu, M. W. H. H. Hsieh, W. H. Pan, et al. 1995. Vegetable consumption, serum retinal level, and risk of hepatocellular carcinoma. Cancer Res. 55 (6): 1301-05; Giovannucci, E., A. Asherio, E. B. Rimm, et al. 1995. Intake of carotenoids and retinal in relation to risk or prostate cancer. J. Nat. Cancer Inst. 87 (23): 1767-76; Potter, J. D., and K. Steinmetz. 1996. Vegetables, fruit and phytoestrogens as preventive agents. IARC Sci. Publ. 139; 61-90.
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Comments (2) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Kathy Popple - August 29, 2006 11:04 PM

My mom's stage 4 ovarian cancer returned 6 months after completing chemo. She was 60 and had type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and overweight. She went to the Gerson clinic in Mexico for two weeks. They taught her to eat healthy (vegan diet) with lots of juicing. She has to take some supplements every day. She also does a detox every day. After two weeks her ca-125 dropped 30 points to under normal. Her oncologist could not feel any tumors. This week has been her 1 year anniversary. Her cancer is still gone. She lost a lot of weight. Her diabetes and blood pressure is under control. It has been amazing. Her diet is very similiar to Dr. Fuhrman's recommendations. I just thought this is relevant to today's post.
Thank You

Willow - June 16, 2007 4:19 AM

When I cut down on avoidable salt and eventually cut it out completely my very high blood pressure gradually went down so that I no longer needed to take beta blockers and indeed my blood pressure is now lower than the norm for my age. - One of the side-effects of cutting out salt and salty food is that you feel so much better and have more energy.

You also lose a lot of weight that you had been carrying as water retention.

I make my own bread in a breadmaker and I do not put any salt into the mix.

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