Obesity to Become Main Cancer Risk

Growing up we always associated smoking with cancer. We’d have the school assemblies to prevent us from lighting up. The packages of cigarettes had images of disgusting gum and tooth disease caused by smoking. And we all knew a relative or loved one that was a smoker and passed away from cancer.

That could all change.

Obesity could overtake smoking as the main cancer risk by 2040 in women and soon after in men.

And with the pandemic this isn’t getting any better. Since this time last year most people have put on a few pounds, are less active and eating more junk food. And when the food delivery services show up in our neighbourhood it’s usually bringing fast food. Combine this with more people quitting smoking and it’s easy to see how obesity will overtake smoking as a greater risk for cancer.

So what’s the big deal with obesity?

Well fat isn’t inert tissue that gets added to the body and has no effects. It doesn’t just sit there quietly but is active. It sends signals to other tissues and organs that affect growth, metabolism and reproductive processes.

When we are obese we are vulnerable to tissue damage and developing tumours. And there are least 12 types of cancer linked to carrying excess weight. Regular exercise is important for cancer prevention specifically breast and colon cancer.

A recent study in the UK involved exercising mice three times per week for 30 minutes. These mice showed lower levels of inflammation, which can lead to the development of tumours. As well, the mice that exercised improved their metabolism, had less fat in their livers and moved more quickly.

In the UK there are 135,000 new cancers per year (about 4 in 10) deemed to be preventable. Exercise can be a great way to reduced the chance of obesity and thus lessen the chance of developing cancer.

Bianchi, A., Marchetti, L., Hall, Z., Lemos, H., Vacca, M., Paish, H., & Wilson, C. L. (2021). Moderate Exercise Inhibits Age-Related Inflammation, Liver Steatosis, Senescence, and Tumorigenesis. The Journal of Immunology206(4), 904-916.

MOTS-c – The Fountain of Youth Protein

When I think of longevity a couple of movies come to mind. Cocoon and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button cover this theme in different ways.

Or a quick history lesson takes us back to Ponce de Leon and the search for the fountain of youth.

Researchers at USC may have found the protein that confers anti-aging benefits.

The protein is MOTS-c and is a mitochondrial protein. Mitochonria can thought of as the powerhouse of the cell and are responsible much of our cellular energy. MOTS-c acts by heping promote metabolism amd maintaining homeostasis.

Previous research into MOTS-c has shown that it helps increase insulin
sensitivty and reverse obesity in mice.

In human when we exercise we see the level of MOTS-c is elevated almost 12x and remains elevated for up to four hours post-exercise.

What the research team at USC did was inject MOTS-c into mice of various ages and then measure their speed and agility, among other things. For mice, young is considered 2 months old, 12 months is middle age and old is 22 months.

The researchers injected the mice three times per week and had them perform a running test. The mice would warm-up for 5 minutes at 13 metres per minute. After five minutes the speed was increased one metre per minute for five minutes to reach 18 metres per minute. The mice then ran for up to 30 minutes at a top speed of 23 metres per minute.

What they found is the older mice i.e. 22 months old, were able to keep up and outrun the young and middle aged mice. As well, the older mice were more sure-footed compared to the younger mice.

This is encouraging and it appears MOTS-c may play a role in healthy aging. It helped with the metabolic fitness and physical capacity of the mice in this study. And MOTS-c was also able to reverse diet induced obesity and insulin resistance in mice as well.

While we shouldn’t expect the same results in humans as in mice this is more support regarding the importance of maintaining fitness and training as we age. This will not only allow us to have more years but a better quality of life with the years we add.

Reynolds, J. C., Lai, R. W., Woodhead, J. S., Joly, J. H., Mitchell, C. J., Cameron-Smith, D., & Lee, C. (2021). MOTS-c is an exercise-induced mitochondrial-encoded regulator of age-dependent physical decline and muscle homeostasis. Nature Communications12(1), 1-11.

Who Do You Trust?

Have you heard this quote before:

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance” – Derek Bok – President Harvard University

And so my question to you is what areas of your life do you rely on an expert?

For example, I use an accountant and lawyer for a reason. Not only did I not go to school for these disciplines but I also don’t have the time to stay current with changes in these fields. So even if I had studied accounting or law in university, what I learned at the time may not apply anymore. Governments pass new laws and judges write new decisions that effect future legal outcomes.

So it is essential I enlist the best to help me in areas of my life and business where I’m not an expert.

What about you? What are the areas of your life where you’re not an expert? More specific to this blog, what is your knowledge in the areas of anatomy, physiology, nutrition and supplements? What about when you get injured, do you know what do or what to avoid doing?

With the internet and explosion of social media we’re seeing more and more people look online for a health, fitness or performance solution. Compound this with COVID and the web can the first place many people start to do their research towards having a better body, improving their health or sports performance.

But is this wise?

Should we trust online websites and blogs? (other than this one of course!)

A recent study from the University of Alberta looked at this question. Who are the authors of these blogs? What are their credentials? And what information are they putting out there?

The researchers checked out 194 of the top fitness blogs online (fortunately we are well below this ranking and managed to escape the scrutiny). Of these blogs only 16% listed any type of fitness certification or credential. However with more than half of the blogs (57%), the authors referred to themselves as a ‘fitness professional’.

But wait, you may be thinking, trainers charge a fair bit, and are professionals. Surely, even if they don’t list a professional certification or credential at least they’d have a bachelor’s degree.

Unfortunately only a paltry 5% of these ‘professionals’ hold a university degree.

So how can this be the case?

Well, the fitness industry is unregulated. If someone wants to call themselves a personal trainer, fitness trainer, movement coach or whatever, they are free to do so. A strength and conditioning coach is a specific credential and requires a degree so that one is a bit different. But using the term ‘trainer’ can be used by anyone.

The other issue is that there are a number of certifications that can be completed over a weekend or done completely online. With this short of a course or nothing done in person it can be very difficult to assess an individual’s ability to coach.

As a result we end up with a number of ‘fitness professionals’ that may or may not have the training, education and knowledge to advise others as to the safest and most efficient path to their goals. And since six-packs and toned bodies tend to sell better than letters after ones name, most of the information being pushed is geared towards aesthetics. There is very little information on the more popular fitness blogs that encourages exercise for stress management, improved sleep quality or the decreased risk of chronic disease.

Stay tuned for a future article where I look at a few top ranked fitness blogs putting out information that is questionable at best and potentially unsafe or dangerous.


Ori, E., Myre, M., & Berry, T. (2019). Who do they think they are? A quantitative content analysis of exercise bloggers and their blogs. Journal of Exercise, Movement, and Sport (SCAPPS refereed abstracts repository)51(1), 234-234.

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