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After cancer, survivors do not choose healthy foods: What's going on?

The "redneck" burger at the 2013 Florida State Fair with donuts on the side. A new study finds that cancer survivors are turning to foods like these, with refined sugars and fat, and shunning the healthy foods they should be choosing. "I want to emphasize that poor diet is prevalent in this population, and the chronic disease burden is high," said Fang Fang Zhang, one of the study's authors. "A small change can potentially have a large impact to a high-risk population." [CAROLINA HIDALGO   |   Times]

The "redneck" burger at the 2013 Florida State Fair with donuts on the side. A new study finds that cancer survivors are turning to foods like these, with refined sugars and fat, and shunning the healthy foods they should be choosing. "I want to emphasize that poor diet is prevalent in this population, and the chronic disease burden is high," said Fang Fang Zhang, one of the study's authors. "A small change can potentially have a large impact to a high-risk population." [CAROLINA HIDALGO | Times]

Surviving cancer doesn't always inspire people to eat healthier, according to a new study. In fact, it may do just the opposite.

Researchers report that on average, cancer survivors eat a less nutritious diet than the overall population, including less fiber and more empty calories.

Fang Fang Zhang, an epidemiologist at Tufts University who co-wrote the study published in the journal Cancer, said the results came as a surprise.

"Cancer survivors are usually motivated to improve their health, so I think it is remarkable that they are still burdened by a suboptimal diet," she said.

Zhang and her colleagues compared the dietary intake of 1,533 cancer survivors and 3,075 individuals who never had cancer. The two groups were matched by age, sex and race and ethnicity.

The researchers estimated the quality of an individual's diet using the Healthy Eating Index, which is based on the U.S. government's 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Scores ranged from zero, which means no adherence to the guidelines, to 100, representing total adherence.

After adjusting for age, sex and ethnicity, the team found that cancer survivors had a lower mean score on the Healthy Eating Index (47.2) than individuals in the non-cancer group (48.3). Cancer survivors also ate less fiber than those who had never had cancer (15 grams per day vs. 15.9 grams per day). They also ate more empty calories, which means more refined sugars and fat.

While the difference between the two groups may seem slight, Zhang said it is still significant enough to suggest that medical professionals who care for cancer survivors should talk to their patients about nutrition. Especially since survivors have an elevated risk of chronic health problems.

"I want to emphasize that poor diet is prevalent in this population, and the chronic disease burden is high," she said. "A small change can potentially have a large impact to a high-risk population."

Among those who once had cancer, older people were found to have a healthier diet than younger people, and those who had a college education had a significantly more healthy diet than those who were less educated. Current smokers had a worse diet than those who were no longer smoking or never smoked at all.

After cancer, survivors do not choose healthy foods: What's going on? 10/14/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 14, 2015 10:58am]
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