Deprivation and Yo-yo Dieting and How This Can Contribute to Increased Risk of Cancer

The majority of people living in the United States are hyper conscious of body image particularly weight. Media and/or peer pressure to be slim, trim and fit to meet strange ideals -- someone else's body image -- can be seen everywhere. This notion or ideal unfortunately and surprisingly starts way before puberty and can lead to dis ordered eating, and a relationship to food that is dysfunctional.

At the same time, media (via company advertising) glamorizes processed foods laidened with cheese, sugar and way too many calories for our current level of activity.

Yo-yo and deprivation dieting has a physiologic toll which contributes to chronic disease development including cancer.

Disordered eating, and dissociation from our individual body ideals can contribute to developing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is defined as a state where our cells are becoming insulin resistant. In other words, they decrease their response to the signal of insulin. Blood sugar levels increase and these high concentrations exit longer than they should. Sounds like diabetes right? Well its almost diabetes, but clinically does not meet the criteria. Metabolic syndrome shows up as a cluster of symptoms. Some common ones include increased central girth (enlarged belly fat), high triglycerides, high blood sugar, and increased blood pressure. All these contribute is insulin resistance and internal stress reactions that affect cortisol, the stress hormone that is also involved in suppressing the immune system.

So how does metabolic syndrome develop from yo-yo dieting?

At some point in time folks have tried some form of dieting to lose weight. The popcorn diet, grapefruit, the bagel diet, the hcg diet, etc. While certainly all of these are diets probably have resulted in weight loss, they are not sustainable and usually when stopped, result in weight gain, sometimes greater than the initial starting point. Cycles of severe restriction of calories, followed by increased intake of calories which is repeated many times over contributes to insulin resistance.

Metabolic syndrome results from a combination of dis-ordered eating, inconsistent physical exercise and stress (both external and internal). Extreme fluctuations in insulin cause cells to become non responsive. As a result, the glucose stays in the blood stream, and the body produces even more insulin in response. Lots of insulin around is not a good state for cancer or other chronic diseases.

What is the scientific relationship between cancer and metabolic syndrome?

There is clear and scientifically-supported relationship between insulin imbalance (metabolic syndrome) in solid cancers, and in increased risk in those diagnosed with genetic mutations such as BRCA and Lynch Syndrome. As I have mentioned in another article (regarding the myth of sugar causing cancer), high levels of insulin plus precancerous or cancerous cells allows for the more aggressive growth of these cells.This is why more and more oncologists are finally understanding and admitting the connection between the power of diet to prevention and remission.

What can you do about it?

Many of us have a very dis-ordered relationship with food. Addressing and affirming our bodies for who we are is a start. Understanding that food is not an enemy but a powerful ally that can aid in illness or aid in health is at the foundation.

Here are some other general ways to decrease your risk of developing metabolic syndrome:

  • Don't diet

  • Selection of whole foods

  • Get consistent exercise

  • Meditation/relaxation/hysterical laughing at least 10 minutes twice a day

If you suspect you are developing metabolic syndrome you should contact your healthcare provider, a nutritionist for an assessment, and preventative plan.