Two New Diet Studies Offer Obesity And Breast Cancer Hope

Two recent academic studies give valuable insight into diet that could have a significant impact on the obesity epidemic.

The first of the two studies was conducted at Cambridge University, and indicated that portion size and human perception could be having a significant impact on our collective weight.

Researchers from the esteemed university found that offering super-sized portions or serving food on a larger plate led to participants in the study eating significantly more.

Even those who were conscientious about the amount that they ate were susceptible to consume large amounts when bigger portions were offered, according to the Cambridge-authored research.

The conclusions from the Cambridge researchers would seem to be logical, considering the amount of time that it takes for the hypothalamus to register the fact that we no longer require food.

Research from Cambridge suggested that if the general public was exposed to smaller portions across all aspects of diet, it would be possible to cut food consumption by 16 per cent.

This would amount to approximately 1,900 calories per week, which would mean a potential loss in weight of a pound every fortnight.

Dr Gareth Hollands, of Cambridge’s Behaviour and Health Research Unit, who co-led the study, suggested that the results indicate that overeating may not merely be due to a lack of self-control.

“Helping people to avoid ‘overserving’ themselves or others with larger portions of food or drink by reducing their size, availability and appeal in shops, restaurants and in the home, is likely to be a good way of helping lots of people to reduce their risk of overeating,” Hollands stated.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, commented that it is important for people to keep a keen eye on portion size considering the rather worrying statistics related to obesity.

“Given that almost two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, it’s important to keep an eye on portion sizes when cooking, shopping and eating out to avoid overeating and help maintain a healthy weight,” Dr. Tedstone asserted.

The findings from the Cambridge study were published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Additionally, a study assessing the so-called Mediterranean diet concluded that it has the potential to reduce the risk of breast cancer by two-thirds.

The Mediterranean diet is particularly characterised by olive oil, and is consumed by countries including Italy and Greece.

It also involves swapping butter for oils, and producing meat intake in favour of more fish. Increased proportions of fruit and vegetables are also central to this diet.

Researchers found that those who follow the Mediterranean diet had a 68% lower risk of malignant breast cancer than those who consumed a low-fat diet.

Commenting on the results, lead author, Miguel A Martínez-González, said: “The results of the trial suggest a beneficial effect of a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil in the primary prevention of breast cancer. Nevertheless, these results need confirmation by long-term studies with a higher number of incident cases.”

There were nearly 12,000 deaths from breast cancer in the UK in 2012.

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Obesity and drug problems included in review of sickness benefit

People who are obese or have alcohol or drug problems resulting in them not being able to work could have their sickness benefits cut if they refuse treatment, says David Cameron.

The PM has launched a wide reaching review of the current system because some 100,000 people with such conditions claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). However, he says, this fails to encourage people with long-term, treatable issues to get medical help. There is currently no requirement for people with such health problems to undertake treatment.

ESA was brought in during 2008 in place of incapacity benefit and income support and is paid when someone has illness or disability. It does require claimants to undergo a work capability assessment to assess the degree to which their illness or disability impacts their ability to work.

Around 60% of the 2.5 million people claiming the ESA benefit have been on in for now for more than 5 years.



The PM has asked Prof Dame Carol Black, already an adviser to the Department of Health, to carry out the review of policies and allowances.

Whilst launching the proposed review, Mr Cameron commented “Some have drug or alcohol problems, but refuse treatment. In other cases people have problems with their weight that could be addressed – but instead a life on benefits rather than work becomes the choice. It is not fair to ask hardworking taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them get back to a life of work.”

Mark Harper, Disabilities Minister, said people who were overweight or had alcohol or drug problems needed treatment to get back to work.

Dame Carol said she was keen to “overcome the challenges” posed by the current system. “These people, in addition to their long-term conditions and lifestyle issues, suffer the great disadvantage of not being engaged in the world of work, such an important feature of society.”



However, the proposed review and policy changes have been challenged from many quarters.

Campaigners said it was “naive” to think overweight people did not want to change and Labour said the policy would no nothing to help people off benefits.

Susannah Gilbert, co-founder of online obesity support group Big Matters, claimed the proposed policy changes “wouldn’t be feasible”. She went on to say: “I think it’s naive to think that people don’t want to change their life. Many of them have tried every diet under the sun and they still have a weight problem, so to think they don’t want to have help isn’t true.”

The Labour MP, Kate Green, who’s also shadow minister for disabled people, pointed out that the numbers claiming sickness benefits had risen under the present Government. She said: “David Cameron’s government has stripped back funding for drug support programmes and their Work Programme has helped just 7% of people back to work, so it is clear the Tory plan isn’t working. Today’s announcement does nothing to help people off benefits and into work while the government continues to fail to clamp down on tax avoiders and offshore tax havens.”


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