A couple of recent articles in the New York Times (Nov 7 & 9th, 2012) touched on two areas very important to me: Colon cancer and exercise. The first looked at whether exercise can prevent brain deterioration due to consuming high-fat diets. Recent research has suggested that a high-fat diet can damage the brain, resulting in loss of memory, cognitive decline, and progression of such diseases as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. This study, reported on by Gretchen Reynolds, was presented last month at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans. It looked at a group of rats scurrying from one chamber to another when they heard a musical tone, a well-accepted measure of the animals’ ability to learn and remember. For the next four months, half the rats ate normal chow. The other half ate a high-fat diet (at least 40% fat), with total calories being the same. After four months, the animals repeated the memory test. Those on the normal diet scored about the same as before; the high-fat eaters did much worse. Then, half the animals in each group were given access to running wheels-their diets didn’t change. In other words, half of the high-fat diet group were now exercising, some were not; ditto for the other group. Over the next seven weeks, the memory test was repeated in all of the groups. During that time the performance of the high-fat diet group continued to decline so long as they didn’t exercise. But, those that were running, even if they were eating lots of fat, improved their ability to think and remember. After seven weeks, the animals on the high-fat diet that exercised were scoring as well on the memory test as they had at the start of the experiment. And, both groups of animals that were exercising, regardless of diet, had healthier brains than the low-fat group. “It appears that free fatty acids from high-fat foods may actually infiltrate the brain, then jump-start a process that leads to cellular damage in the portions of the brain that control memory and learning,”┬ásays Vijayakumar Mavanji, a research scientist at the Minnesota VA Medical Center at the University of Minnesota. Exercise, on the other hand, seems to stimulate the production of specific biochemical substances in the brain that fight that process. End result? Exercise is manna for the brain! Just do it!!!!

The second study, reported on by Anahad O’Connor, suggest that what you eat may affect your chances of surviving colon cancer. Colon cancer killed my Father in 1995 at the age of 63. I loved my Dad, but I don’t think he fought as good of a fight as he could of. He never exercised, and ate a high-fat diet loaded with red meat, sugar, and no vegetables; even when he had been diagnosed with the disease. In a strange way, I learned from him what NOT to do for colon health. This particular study found that people treated for stage 3 disease, in which tumor cells had spread to lymph nodes, had greatly increased chances of dying of it or experiencing a recurrence if their diets were heavy in carbohydrate-rich foods that cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin. (Stage 3 colon cancer patients typically have a five-year survival rate of about 50-65%). Chronically high insulin levels have been linked to cancer recurrence, and people with a history of type 2 diabetes or elevated plasma C-peptide, a marker of long-term insulin production, have also been found to have an increased risk of colon cancer. Results of this study: Those who consumed a diet low in glycemic-index foods, such as brown rice, unrefined grains and legumes, and vegetables had a threefold decrease in recurrence and death from disease than those on a typical western diet (high in red meats, fat, refined grains, and sugary desserts). I follow the former diet and I exercise 5 times a week. I have no guarantees that I won’t get colon cancer, but I like my chances. If I could have only taught my lifestyle choices to my Father…..

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.