Risky Alternatives

What happens to cancer patients who choose “alternative treatments”?

Researchers identified roughly 280 people who chose “alternative”—that is, unproven—treatments for several non-metastatic cancers.

Over five years, patients who chose alternative treatments were six times more likely to die of breast cancer, five times more likely to die of colorectal cancer, two times more likely to die of lung cancer, and no more likely to die of prostate cancer (which progresses slowly) than similar patients who chose conventional treatment.

Those who chose alternative treatments had higher socioeconomic status and education, were more likely to live in the western United States, and had fewer other illnesses than other patients.

What to do: Don’t bet your life on unproven cancer remedies. (This study didn’t look at people who use complementary and integrative medicine in addition to conventional treatment.)

J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 110: djx145, 2018.

How to Trim Bad Belly Fat

Can the right diet or exercise help you lose the worst types of body fat?

Israeli researchers randomly assigned 278 sedentary adults (mostly men) with oversized waists or high triglycerides and low HDL (“good”) cholesterol to one of two diets with equal calories—low-fat or Mediterranean low-carb—for 1½ years.

For the last year, half were also assigned to an exercise program (45 minutes of aerobic plus 15 minutes of strength training) three days a week.

The Mediterranean low-carb group was told to eat more vegetables, beans, poultry, and fish instead of beef and lamb. And they were given an ounce of walnuts to eat each day. Their carb limit was 40 grams a day for two months, and up to 70 grams a day thereafter.

The low-fat group was told to eat whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans, and to cut back on sweets and high-fat snacks. Each group was served either a low-fat or Mediterranean low-carb lunch—the main meal of the day in Israel—at work.

After 1½ years, both groups had lost about six pounds. But the exercisers lost more deep belly (visceral) fat, the worst kind, no matter which diet they ate. And waist size, triglycerides, and liver fat fell more in the Mediterranean low-carb group, whether they exercised or not.

What to do: To shrink belly fat, get off the couch! To lower triglycerides and liver fat, replace some carbs with nuts, fish, and other unsaturated fats.

Circulation 2017. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.030501.

Did Somebody Say Dessert?

As if we needed more evidence that dessert can be irresistible.

Researchers had 29 young adults press a key each time they saw a “target” (an image rotated on its side) in a rapid stream of images on a computer.

The question: Would they do worse on the test if “distractor” images of a sandwich or dessert preceded the target?

The results: Before lunch, distractors showing either food led to poorer performance. But after a lunch (of unlimited sandwiches), the sandwich images had less impact on performance.

The dessert images? Still a distraction.

What to do: Don’t assume that you’ll pass up dessert.

Appetite 125: 24, 2018

Photos: Adobe Stock: Africa Studio (man), YakobchukOlena (pills), yuliiaholovchenko (dessert).