Obesity & Breast Cancer - Effects of leptin

The link between obesity and breast cancer has strengthened with two new studies showing that body mass index is correlated with the disease. These finding apply to women of all ages with breast cancer, not just those who are postmenopausal. Lipid profile and estradiol levels correlating with high body mass index were shown as additional determinative factors.

Scientists at Geneva University in Switzerland conducted a population-based study in which they evaluated the impact of obesity on presentation, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Among all women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in Geneva between 2003 and 2005, they identified those with available information on body mass index and categorized them into groups they identified as normal/underweight (BMI <25kg/m), overweight (BMI >/=-30kg/m), and obese (BMI >30kg/m).

They compared tumor, diagnosis and treatment characteristics between the groups. They found that obese women presented significantly more often with stage III and stage IV disease, with an odds ratio of 1.8. This means they were 180% more likely to have later stage breast cancer than those women in the normal/underweight group. Women in the obese group were 240% more likely to have tumors that were equal to or greater in size than 1 centimeter compared to the women in the normal/underweight group. They were also a whopping 510% more likely to have positive lymph nodes suggesting their cancers may have spread to other parts of their bodies.

Leptin, a hormone derived from fat cells, is best known for its efforts to send messages to the body that its time to stop eating. This process may go awry in many people with obesity. Dr. Sebastiano Ando, lead researcher, has noted that leptin is also involved in many other processes in the breast, from reproduction and lactation to cell differentiation and proliferation. Leptin is activated by signals from the leptin receptor, and it is this partnership gone wrong that has previously been shown to be involved in the development of breast cancer. Leptin has been found in 86.4% of primary breast tumors.

Normalized leptin functioning may produce happy breasts

All this research implies that the regulation and function of leptin must be restored in anyone wanting to be protected from breast cancer or its return. Health guru Byron Richards, one of the first nutritionists to recognize the importance of leptin, describes it as the single most important hormone for body weight control. Leptin regulates thyroid hormone, insulin, growth hormone, and adrenal hormones. When leptin is dysfunctional, all the other hormones regulating metabolic processes become dysfunctional too. He sees an understanding of leptin as basic for anyone trying to get and keep optimal metabolic function.

Leptin is made in white adipose tissue, commonly known as stored fat. Its release is stimulated by consuming a meal. Leptin flows through blood vessels to the brain where it delivers the message that it is time to stop eating. If people consistently overeat they become leptin resistant, a condition in which leptin becomes unable to deliver its message to the brain. This condition develops into a vicious circle in which overeating continues and the brain becomes even more resistant to the leptin message. This is about the time true obesity sets in.

To regain a healthy metabolism and keep eating under control, proper leptin function must be normalized. This requires a drastic reduction in consumption of processed carbohydrates and the embracing of a diet comprised of whole foods. This does not have to be a grueling dietary upheaval that produces feelings of deprivation and lack of satisfaction. Abandoning processed carbohydrates can be as simple as making a switch from pretzels to full fat potato chips. It can mean getting satisfaction from a chocolate bar with nuts rather than from a piece of cake. The key is the change from a diet in which processed carbohydrates play a large part, to a diet in which they play almost no part.

Getting a full nine hours of sleep in a fully darkened room is the also necessary for restoring leptin function. This means going to the bathroom in the dark, no TV, and no trips to the refrigerator unless you have removed the inside light. Daily exercise is also important, and will become desirable as energy levels improve along with leptin. Stress reduction is the fourth component in a leptin normalizing program.

Richard's book The Leptin Diet gives the low-down on how to get leptin working for you instead of against you. For those trying to kick the sugar habit as part of ousting processed carbohydrates from the diet, he suggests using supplements of the bitter herbs Gymnema sylvestre, and Inula racemosa. He calls these herbs "sugar busters". They help reduce the desire for sweet tasting foods and help bring the taste system back to natural balance. Obesity can cause an inflammatory response in the body, as the fat tissue regulates hormones, especially the three metabolic hormones leptin, resistin and adiponectin that control appetite, insulin resistance and sensitivity.

Whole grain or high fiber cereal 1 cup with soy milk
Berries 1/2 cup
Walnuts 1/4 cup
Whey protein powder 2 scoops in soy milk or mixed with cereal


Four free range eggs
Two pieces sprouted grain bread
Berries 1/2 cup
Walnuts 1/4 cup

Lunch or Dinner
Chicken breast or salmon or lean steak 6 - 8 oz
Whole grain high fiber pasta or slow cook brown rice or mixed vegetables 1 cup
Avocado large 1/2 or 1/4 cup nuts
Flax meal 1 tbsp mixed with pasta or rice or vegetables
Olive oil 1 tbsp mixed with pasta or rice or vegetables
Spices - ginger, cumin, turmeric
Berries or grapes 1/2 cup or apple

Foods that cause inflammation include sugar, high-fat meats, food additives such as nitrates, and saturated fats. Hydrogenated vegetable oils such as those found in margarines are especially damaging, as are all simple sugars, including corn sweeteners. It is best to avoid these foods as much as possible and replace them with healthy alternatives.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods - The following food choices contribute to reduced inflammation.

Omega 3-fatty acids are found in cold water fish, walnuts, flax seeds, olive oil and dark greens such as spinach and kale. Salmon is an excellent source of Omega-3s.
Cod liver oil can reverse the destruction of joint cartilage according to recent research at the Cardiff University in Britain. Cod Liver Oil contains essential fatty acids and other omega-3, as well as vitamin D. The research shows that the Vitamin D in the Cod Liver Oil helps heal the inflammation and speed recovery to joints.
Cherries and berries contain anthocyanins, and studies have shown that they can reduce inflammatory pain up to ten times better than aspirin or ibuprofen.
Berries contain anti-inflammatory phytochemicals. Research with cherry extract showed it stopped inflammation ten times better than aspirin.
Protein. Inflammatory diseases require amino acids to repair tissue and keep it healthy. For that reason, an increase in the intake of protein reduces inflammation. Lean protein sources, such as fish or soy are advised, as are beans and legumes.
Quercetin is found in the skin of oranges, grapefruits and in apple and red onion skins. It can also be purchased as a dietary supplement. has strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Dark chocolate has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory action and to reduce atherosclerosis. This is because of the flavanols in chocolate act on the mechanisms in the body that cause inflammation: cytokines, eicosanoids, and nitric oxide. Because of these actions, chocolate consumption aids in heart health.
Tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant have been sited as being bad for arthritis but new research shows these claims may be unfounded. In fact, the lycopene in tomatoes may even be beneficial
Green tea reduces the risk of infection and repairs immune function. Researchers have discovered a compound in green tea inhibits cancer cells and lowers total cholesterol levels.
Nuts provide the nutrient selenium, which helps limit oxidative damage. One ounce of Brazil nuts contains over 500 mcg of selenium.
Herbs. Numerous herbs that reduce inflammation include cinnamon, garlic, and turmeric.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Simple dietary changes can reduce the risk of chronic disease and tissue damage. The basis of an anti-inflammatory diet is fruits and vegetables. Add to that limited amounts of whole gains, and healthy fish and seafood. Healthy fats from fish and nuts replace saturated fats, and green tea and spices add variety and healthy nutrients. Reducing inflammation with these simple dietary changes leads to better health, disease prevention and increased vitality.

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