Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Shedding Light on the Fat Factor
Obesity, or excess weight extreme enough to reduce life expectancy, is one of the most preventable risk factors for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and possibly even certain cancers, according to some research studies.
It’s a problem of particular concern in Louisiana, where obesity rates have more than doubled since 1990. “While Louisiana can no longer claim the heavyweight title of the United States, we are far from the featherweight category,” said Dr. Mark LaFuria, an internal medicine physician. “More than half our adults and more than a third of our children are overweight or obese, contributing to increased rates of more than 30 serious diseases.
”Research has determined that obesity is a risk factor for cancers of the colon, breast, endometrium, kidney, and esophagus. And because some studies show a decreased risk for cancers of the cervix, gallbladder, prostate, liver, pancreas, rectum, and thyroid in those with low-fat diets and/or higher levels of physical activity, an obesity link to these forms of cancer is also suspected.
“One reason obesity may raise cancer risk is because fat cells produce a form of estrogen called estradiol that promotes the rapid division of cells, increasing the chances of a random genetic error while cells are replicating, which in turn can lead to cancer,” Dr. LaFuria explained. In addition, fat around the abdomen may increase insulin and insulin-like growth factors in the blood, which may increase cancer risk. “Abdominal fat is a factor for obese postmenopausal women, who have a 50 percent higher relative risk for breast cancer, and for obese men, who have a 40 percent higher relative risk for colon cancer,” said Dr. LaFuria.