High Glycemic Diet and Cancer: More evidence for a connection

It’s certainly not news to readers of the Atkins Advantage Newsletter that we at Atkins are no fans of sugar. Far more damaging to the body than fat, sugar is responsible for a host of ills ranging from depressing the immune system to increasing the risk for acne and cavities. And much more seriously, a high sugar (or high glycemic) diet has been strongly linked to both diabetes and heart disease.

High-glycemic foods, such as processed carbohydrates and anything with high sugar content in it cause quick and strong increases in blood sugar levels. In addition to increasing the risk for heart disease and diabetes, high glycemic diets have also been linked to an increased risk for age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of adult blindness over the age of 65), infertility and some types of cancer. Lower GI foods, on the other hand, have been shown to help control type 2 diabetes and improve weight loss.

Some disturbing evidence has begun to link high glycemic diets to some types of cancer, and now a new study adds to the growing concern about the connection. Researchers writing in the American Journal of Gastroenterology (1) noted that cases of esophageal cancer increased from 300,000 in 1973 to 2.1 million in 2001, which closely mirrors increases in carbohydrate intake and obesity over the same time. It’s well established that obesity is a risk factor for many types of cancer, since fat cells are actually endocrine glands that secrete many substances that can add to the risk for cancer. And it’s also well established that high glycemic diets are a risk factor for obesity, so the connection to cancer is not wholly surprising.

“If we can reverse the trends in refined carbohydrate intake and obesity in the U.S., we may be able to reduce the incidence of esophageal cancer,” study author Dr. Li Li, an assistant professor in the department of family medicine and the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University/University Hospitals Health System, said in a prepared statement. Other studies have linked high glycemic diets to an increased risk of colorectal and breast cancer as well.

Along with high fiber intake, high antioxidant intake, exercise, plenty of protein and good quality fats, low-glycemic eating has long been the cornerstone of the Atkins Advantage program. In addition to reducing the risk for heart disease and obesity, it now appears low glycemic eating may reduce the risk for cancer as well. Followers of the Atkins Advantage Program can be assured that Atkins products are low in naturally occurring sugar, free of added sugars, and designed to be low-glycemic.


1) “Carbohydrate Consumption and Esophageal Cancer: An Ecological Assessment” Thompson, Khiani, Chak, Berger, Li Li, American Journal of Gastroeneterology, Volume 103 Issue 3 Page 555, March 2008

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