Obesity is a complex disease caused by the interaction of a myriad of genetic, dietary, lifestyle and environmental factors, which favors a chronic positive energy balance, leading to increased body fat mass. There is emerging evidence of a strong association between obesity and an increased risk of cancer. However, the mechanisms linking both diseases are not fully understood. Here, we analyze the current knowledge about the potential contribution that expanding adipose tissue in obesity could make to the development of cancer via dysregulated secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines and adipokines such as TNF-α, IL-6, leptin, adiponectin, visfatin and PAI-1. Dietary factors play an important role in the risk of suffering obesity and cancer. The identification of bioactive dietary factors or substances that affect some of the components of energy balance to prevent/reduce weight gain as well as cancer is a promising avenue of research. This article reviews the beneficial effects of some bioactive food molecules (n-3 PUFA, CLA, resveratrol and lipoic acid) in energy metabolism and cancer, focusing on the molecular mechanisms involved, which may provide new therapeutic targets in obesity and cancer.
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