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1/3 of common cancers preventable with lifestyle changes

As discussed on The Weekend Wake Up Show with Luke EisBrenner on CJOB 680 am radio Sunday March 1, 2009 8:10 am. Listen to the recording on CJOB's audio vault

The World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research has released the second of two reports after reviewing over 7000 studies on cancer. Their conclusions are that 1/3 of the most common cancers are preventable through eating healthy and being physically active.

Another group, The Canadian Heart Health Strategy and Action Plan, has the same outcome recommendations, but for preventing Canada's number one killer; heart disease.

According to both groups billions of dollars will be saved, not to mention all the lives saved, if governments spend big bucks on education and prevention programs ranging from more aggressive food label rules, banning trans fats, physical activity programs, and walk/ bike paths.

What I find interesting about these reports, and they come out fairly regularly, is the response that such recommendations are common sense and a waste of money because everyone knows about the benefits of healthily living.

So, we all know about the benefits of healthy living and don't need a nanny state to hold our hands to the produce section to tell us to buy veggies and enjoy eating them.

Really?

So if we're all so smart and well endowed with common sense, then why is the population more obese every year and why do we have only 30% of the population getting more than 30 minutes of daily physical activity?

Obviously there is a gap between having common sense, and applying common sense.

That gap is this: We don't value healthy living.

Ask just about anyone and they'll tell you straight up, the idea of eating a delicious dessert and relaxing on the couch sounds much more appealing than eating a healthy salad and going for walk.

The trouble is we don't make the link of risk, harm, and reward appropriately. Healthy choices are seen as interfering with enjoying life (sic) and unhealthy choices are seen as the natural default preference of choice.

The reason why these reports keep coming out is because our state of health is getting worse because we continue to make unhealthy choices. It's true many people get sick through no fault of their own, even despite the healthiest lifestyle, but this fact should not be used to dilute the truth that many people set themselves up for serious illness through living unhealthy.

I'm not playing a blame game here, I'm saying; living healthy feels great.. feels liberating, and is nowhere near as challenging as living with obesity, cancer, or heart disease.

Our civil libertarians will tell us that we don't need governments to tell us what we already know, and to stay out of our way when it comes to making personal choices.

I admit I have some libertarian views myself in that too much regulation might be in conflict with whole idea of living in a free democracy, but is this really what is at heart here? I don't think so.

I think that the "don't regulate me" response in this context has more to do with personal denial than really wanting to defend our democratic rights.

It's simply easier to start talking about the concept of protecting ourselves from over regulation than to address our own personal lack of appreciation for making healthy choices.

The way to get ourselves out of this mess is to start making healthy living choices part of our everyday life. Can regulations do that? If a city has a regulation to make more bike/ walk paths will we have endless kilometres of unused make work projects; or will we see more people using the infrastructure?

Every city that I have been in that has major bike/ walk paths has many of those paths as a locally cherished and well used recreational and transportation feature. The river walk at The Forks Winnipeg MB, The Sea Wall at Stanley Park/ False Creek in Vancouver BC, similar attractions in Seattle WA, San Diego CA, Toronto ON, and I'm sure, all over the world.

If built properly these facilities are used and foster physical activity.

What about food labels. Looking for low sodium? Many companies will boast a "low sodium" signature on their label when trying to attract the low sodium consumer.

What if all foods that had too much sodium in them had to put a big red label front and centre; "Too much sodium". Instantly a huge majority of processed foods would have this big label on them. It would demonstrate just how many foods are too high in sodium.

What about processed foods that deliver calories, but no significant vitamins and minerals?

For those who care these labels would make a difference. For those who don't care.. what then? What would happen if knowingly unhealthy doses of sodium and fat were simply not allowed?

Imagine being able choose foods having the confidence that no matter what you chose it would not be too high or too low in anything..
Perhaps that's too idealistic to implement as there is nothing to stop a person from simply eating more or less of something to alter their intake.

So we should do nothing at all then? Stay the course?

That isn't working either.

One thing we can do, that does not involve any complicated or controversial government regulation is to make healthy living more rewarding for us.

Set a higher personal standard and reap the rewards. Do I feel better about myself when I don't overeat? Yes. Will you? I would bet on it.

My take on this whole thing is;

1) Take action yourself. Make healthy food choices and get active.
2) Use bike/ walk paths and if there aren't enough of those, then your city ought to make more.
3) It is simply inhumane to sell foods that are unmistakably unhealthy; regulate the extremes.
4) Get into the idea that healthy living will give you more, not take away from what you already have.



 

2009 Cris LaBossiere Rhino Fitness

Copyright 2004 Rhino Fitness. All rights reserved.
For more information contact: clabossiere@rhinofitness.ca