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ACS publishes new guideline for diet and physical activity

​More emphasis on consuming less red meat and alcohol, and increasing physical activity

Our new guideline on diet and physical activity for cancer prevention says adults should engage in 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, and that it's best to avoid alcohol.

At least 18% of all cancer cases in the U.S. are related to what we consume and our activity level. In fact, after not smoking, these lifestyle habits are the most important behaviors that people can control and change to help lower their cancer risk.

The new guideline appears today in the American Cancer Society’s peer-reviewed journal, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

The updated guideline reflects the latest evidence published since the last update in 2012. It is based on reviews conducted by the International Agency on Cancer Research, the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research, and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.

Here's a summary of what's changed:

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

New:
Adults should engage in 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week; achieving or exceeding the upper limit of 300 minutes is optimal.

Previous:
Adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week.

DIET(Healthy dietary patterns are associated with reduced risk for cancer, especially colorectal and breast cancers.)

New:
Follow a healthy eating pattern at all ages.

A healthy eating pattern includes:

  • Foods that are high in nutrients in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight;
  • A variety of vegetables—dark green, red, and orange, fiber-rich legumes (beans and peas), and others;
  • Fruits, especially whole fruits with a variety of colors; and 
  • Whole grains.

A healthy eating pattern limits or does not include:

  • Red and processed meats;
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages; or
  • Highly processed foods and refined grain products.

Previous:
Consume a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant foods. 

  • Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Limit consumption of processed meat and red meat.
  • Eat at least 2.5 cups of vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Choose whole grains instead of refined grain products.

ALCOHOL

New:
It is best not to drink alcohol. People who do choose to drink alcohol should limit their consumption to no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. (A drink is 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.)

Previous:
If you drink alcoholic beverages, limit consumption. Drink no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 per day for men.

Recommendation for Community Action

New:
Public, private, and community organizations should work collaboratively at national, state, and local levels to develop, advocate for, and implement policy and environmental changes that increase access to affordable, nutritious foods; provide safe, enjoyable, and accessible opportunities for physical activity; and limit alcohol for all individuals.

Previous:
Public, private, and community organizations should work collaboratively at national, state, and local levels to implement policy and environmental changes that:

  • Increase access to affordable, healthy foods in communities, worksites, and schools, and decrease access to and marketing of foods and beverages of low nutritional value, particularly to youth.
  • Provide safe, enjoyable, and accessible environments for physical activity in schools and worksites, and for transportation and recreation in communities.

Additional recommendations for diet and physical activity 

  • Get to and stay at a healthy body weight throughout life. If you’re overweight or obese, losing even a few pounds can lower your risk for some types of cancer.
  • Children and teens should get at least 1 hour of moderate or vigorous intensity activity each day.
  • Spend less time sitting or lying down. This includes time looking at your phone, tablet, computer, or TV.
  • Eat a colorful variety of vegetables and fruits, and plenty of whole grains and brown rice.
  • Avoid or limit eating red meats such as beef, pork, and lamb and processed meats such as bacon, sausage, deli meats, and hot dogs.
  • Avoid or limit sugar-sweetened beverages, highly processed foods, and refined grain products.

FAQs

The updated guideline also includes answers to questions that commonly arise within the general public, including information on genetically modified crops, gluten-free diets, juicing/cleanses, and more.

  • Genetically modified crops are made by adding genes to plants to give them desired qualities like being resistant to pests or having a better flavor. There is no evidence at this time that foods made with these crops are harmful to health, or that they affect cancer risk.
  • Gluten is a protein in wheat, rye, and barley that is safe for most people. People with celiac disease should not eat gluten. For people without celiac disease, there is no evidence linking a gluten-free diet with a lower risk of cancer. There are many studies linking whole grains, including those with gluten, with a lower risk of colon cancer.
  • There is no scientific evidence to support claims that drinking only juices for one or more days (a “juice cleanse”) reduces cancer risk or provides other health benefits. A diet limited to juice may lack some important nutrients and in some cases may even lead to health problems.

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