Colette's Blog

Control Your Carbs, Cut Your Cancer Risk? It’s Possible

November 17, 2014

More research shows that there is a connection between diet and disease. In one of the first studies to examine how diet affects the chances that a disease will reoccur, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, more than 1,000 patients with advanced (stage III) colon cancer reported their dietary intake during a clinical trial of follow-up chemotherapy, and for six months after the trial. Researchers tracked their total carbohydrates, as well as their glycemic index and glycemic load and looked for a connection between those measures and a recurrence of colon cancer. The researchers found that participants with the highest levels of glycemic load and carb intake had an 80 percent increased risk in colon cancer recurrence or death compared to those who had the lower levels. For patients who were overweight or obese, the increase was even greater.

There have been other recent studies that have shown that colorectal cancer survivors whose diets and activity patterns lead to excess amounts of insulin the blood have a higher risk of cancer recurrence and death from the disease. As you know, eating too many starchy and sugar-laden foods can cause high insulin levels. Lead author Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, found in a previous study of advanced-stage colon cancer patients that those who ate the typical “Western” diet—high intakes of meat, fat, refined grains and sugar desserts—were three times likely to have a cancer recurrence. That is why they decided to conduct this new study, so researchers could find out what component of the Western diet was responsible for this, and it turned out to be the refined grains and sugar desserts.

“In light of our and other’s research, we theorize that factors including a high glycemic load may stimulate the body’s production of insulin,” Meyerhardt said. “That, in turn, may increase the proliferation of cells and prevent the natural cell-death process in cancer cells that have metastasized from their original site.” He added that although the study doesn’t prove that diets high in glycemic load and carbohydrate intake cause a recurrence of colon cancer, the results strongly suggest that they play a role, and emphasizes that more research needs to be done.

This research continues to suggest that a diet like Atkins, which is rich in protein, healthy fats and vegetables, but limits refined grains, high glycemic foods and sugars, may help you win the battle of the bulge and help control your insulin levels, both factors in reducing your risk of cancer.

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