Body Weight

Having a healthy body weight is linked to lower risk of many types of cancer, fewer or less severe symptoms and treatment side effects, and in some cases better survival after diagnosis. Body weight is also an important body terrain factor—a condition that influences whether your body is more supportive or less supportive of cancer.

What practices and therapies can help you manage your body weight?

Top practices and therapies for managing your body weight

Additional therapies and practices supported by less evidence are also listed below.

Strong, good, or modest evidence of benefit

Strong evidenceconsistent, significant effects in several large (or at least one very large) well designed clinical studies or at least two meta-analyses of clinical studies of moderate or better quality (or one large meta-analysis) finding similar results (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) indicates confidence that the practice or therapy has an effect as noted. Good evidencesignificant effects in one large or several mid-sized and well-designed clinical studies (randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with an appropriate placebo or other strong comparison control or observational studies that control for confounds) (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) indicates that the practice or therapy is linked to the outcomes described with reasonable certainty. Modest evidencesignificant effects in at least three small but well-designed randomized controlled trials (RCTs), or one or more well-designed, mid-sized clinical studies of reasonably good quality (RCTs or observational studies), or several small studies aggregated into a meta-analysis (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) means the practice or therapy may be linked to the outcomes described, but with a lower degree of certainty.

The evidence for these effects is described in the reviews available through the image links.

Eating Well: mixed evidence

Not specific to cancer:

  • More weight loss and less weight gain among people with body-mass index (BMI) higher than 25 eating more fruits and vegetables (good evidence)significant effects in one large or several mid-sized and well-designed clinical studies (randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with an appropriate placebo or other strong comparison control or observational studies that control for confounds) (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently)
  • Lower body weight or more weight loss among people eating earlier instead of late in the day (modest evidence)
  • Higher body weight among people with type 2 diabetes eating a late dinner(preliminary evidence)significant effects in small or poorly designed clinical studies OR conflicting results in adequate studies but a preponderance of evidence of an effect (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently)
  • Lower body weight and a weak trend toward lower body mass index among people using nonsugar sweeteners (good evidence)
  • Larger waist circumference among older adults drinking diet soda (preliminary evidence)
  • Higher intake of calories among females, but not males, after drinking beverages containing sucralose (preliminary evidence)
  • No evidence of an effectoverall, one or more studies did not demonstrate that a treatment or intervention led to an expected outcome; this does not always mean that there is no effect in clinical practice, but that the studies may have been underpowered (too few participants) or poorly designed. Larger, well-designed studies provide more confidence in making assessments. on obesity among people eating high-calorie (energy-dense) foods in a combined analysis of reviews and combined analyses
  • No evidence of an effect on total daily energy expenditure, resting metabolic rate, or weight loss among overweight or obese people following a calorie-restricted diet with morning-loaded calories

Moving More: strong and good evidence

Less body fat and more lean body mass among people with cancer participating in exercise without regard to cancer treatment phase (strong evidence)consistent, significant effects in several large (or at least one very large) well designed clinical studies or at least two meta-analyses of clinical studies of moderate or better quality (or one large meta-analysis) finding similar results (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently)

Increased lean body mass and less body fat or obesity among people treated with neoadjuvant or adjuvant chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or hormone therapy, including androgen deprivation therapy, when participating in exercise (good evidence)

More lean muscle mass among people with cancer participating in exercise, especially resistance training (good evidence)

Berberine: good evidence

Not specific to cancer:

  • Lower measures of body weight among people treated with berberine (good evidence)

Fasting or calorie restriction: strong and preliminary evidence

Not specific to cancer: 

  • More weight loss and less body fat among people fasting, usually for 24 hours at a time (strong evidence)
  • More weight loss and less body fat among people restricting calorie intake (strong evidence)
  • More weight loss and less body fat among overweight people exercising to create an energy deficit of about 20% (preliminary evidence)
  • More weight loss and less body fat among overweight people exercising to create an energy deficit of about 12.5% and exercising to increase total energy expenditure by 12.5% (preliminary evidence)

Green tea or EGCG: mixed evidence

Not specific to cancer:

  • Lower weight, waist circumference, and body fat among people drinking green tea or beverages containing green tea catechins (not specific to cancer) (good evidence)
  • Insufficient (conflicting) evidence of an effect on body weight or weight loss among people treated with green tea extracts in several combined studies (not specific to cancer)

Mediterranean diet: good evidence

Not specific to cancer:

  • Lower body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and/or body weight among people eating a Mediterranean diet (good evidence)

Metformin: good to preliminary evidence

Metformin is a prescription medication used to regulate blood sugar and insulin resistance. Ideally, it is paired with diet and exercise to bring blood sugar under control. We do not recommend its use primarily for weight loss, as it has some serious side effects, including increased risk of some types of cancer. We strongly recommend medical supervision of its use.

Lower body mass index among people with breast cancer and diabetes treated with metformin (modest evidence)

Lower body weight among people with cancer (not specific to diabetes) treated with metformin for longer than 1 to 5 weeks (good evidence)

Not specific to cancer:

  • Lower body weight among nondiabetic people with endometrial hyperplasia without atypia treated with metformin (preliminary evidence)
  • Lower body weight and waist circumference among people with metabolic imbalances other than diabetes treated with metformin (modest evidence)

Probiotics and prebiotics: mixed evidence

Not specific to cancer:

  • Higher self-reported feelings of satiety among healthy adults treated with dietary prebiotics (not specific to cancer) (good evidence)
  • No evidence of an effect on measures of body weight among adults with metabolic syndrome treated with various strains of probiotics or synbiotics in a combined analysis of studies
  • Weak evidence of lower measures of body weight among overweight or obese and insulin-resistant people treated with pasteurized Akkermansia muciniphila
  • Preliminary evidence of lower measures of body weight among women with polycystic ovarian syndrome treated with synbiotics
  • No evidence of an effect on measures of body weight or composition among overweight, obese, or prediabetic people treated with prebiotics in 2 small studies
Tai chi or qigong: good evidence

Not specific to cancer:

  • Less body fat among people with or at risk of metabolic syndrome practicing tai chi (good evidence)
Yoga: good evidence

Not specific to cancer:

  • Better body weight and waist circumference among people practicing yoga (good evidence)

Therapies with preliminary or weak evidence of benefit for body weight

Preliminary evidencesignificant effects in small or poorly designed clinical studies OR conflicting results in adequate studies but a preponderance of evidence of an effect (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) means the practice or therapy may be linked to the outcomes described, although substantial uncertainty remains. Weak evidenceone or more case studies, supported by animal evidence OR small treatment effects of limited clinical significance OR studies with no controls OR weak trends of effects (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) may mean that the effects are small or that a high degree of uncertainty remains about the links between the practice or therapy and the outcomes described.

Combining Eating Well and Moving More Learn moreSee Less
Manage high blood sugar and insulin resistance Learn moreSee Less
Antioxidant supplements with a special diet and pharmaceuticals Learn moreSee Less
Green tea, vitamin E, and walking Learn moreSee Less
Ketogenic diet Learn moreSee Less
Metformin and lifestyle changes together Learn moreSee Less

No evidence of benefit

Quercetin ›

No evidence of an effect on measures of body weight among overweight or obese people treated with quercetin in a combined analysis of studies

Vitamin D ›

Not specific to cancer:

  • No evidence of an effect on body weight among postmenopausal women treated with vitamin D in a small study

Find a physician knowledgeable about terrain factors in cancer care

Metabolic Terrain Institute of Health

These practitioners are trained regarding appropriate therapies to optimize body terrain as part of an integrative cancer care plan.

 

Terrain Certified Practitioner Directory

Authors

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher and writer for CancerChoices and also served as the first program manager. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher

Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Reviewer

Miki Scheidel

Co-Founder and Creative Director
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Miki Scheidel is Co-founder and creative director of CancerChoices. She led the effort to transform Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies, the prior version of CancerChoices, to its current form. Miki and her family were deeply affected by her father’s transformative experience with integrative approaches to metastatic kidney cancer. That experience inspires her work as president of the Scheidel Foundation and as volunteer staff at CancerChoices. She previously worked with the US Agency for International Development and Family Health International among other roles. She received her graduate degree in international development from Georgetown University, a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from George Mason University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Gettysburg College.

Miki Scheidel Co-Founder and Creative Director

Last update: May 21, 2024

Last full literature review: August 2021

CancerChoices provides information about integrativein cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care, and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocialtherapy, and acupuncture therapies and self carelifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.