Energy Balance holds key to health

"Energy balance" is a term not usually encountered outside stress management advice and yoga poses. But now the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) is promoting the concept for weight loss - and maybe even cancer prevention. The idea: Match the number of calories eaten with those expended daily.

"Everyone's heard the idea 'eat less, exercise more' " in the context of weight loss, says Karen Collins, a registered dietitian who helped design the AICR energy balance campaign. Now there's growing evidence, Collins says, that "achieving energy balance reduces the risk for cancer 'and other diseases while preventing weight gain."

For years, researchers thought that fat cells were simply inert, doing little beyond serving as storage for the body. "Now we know that fat is metabolically active," Coffins says. Research suggests that fat cells release small amounts of hormones and other growth factors that can spur healthy cells to grow and divide at an accelerated rate. That, in turn, may increase the risk of cancer.

How to Balance — Rather than simply counting calories, AICR suggests restoring energy balance first by increasing the proportion of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and beans in every meal. These foods are high in fiber, water and nutrients that help you feel fuller with fewer calories. Plus, fruits and vegetables are rich in 'plant-based substances that can help defend cells against damage that appears to lead to cancer.

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