(NaturalHealth365) Add white bread and rice to the list of foods suspected of increasing the risk of lung cancer. Building on past studies that associated over-consumption of red meat, saturated fats and dairy with increased risk of lung cancer, researchers set out to determine how the glycemic index (GI) can impact risk of lung cancer, particularly among nonsmokers.
Researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center found a 49 percent increased risk of lung cancer among those who consumed the greatest amount of high-glycemic foods, such as white bread and bagels, white rice, and many processed foods. That difference in cancer risk was magnified among study subjects who had never smoked.
Quality of carbs had greatest impact on cancer among non-smokers
The findings from the recent Texas study were published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal published by the American Association for Cancer Research. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women, but responsible for the largest number of cancer deaths. Lung cancer is expected to claim the lives of over 150,000 cancer victims in 2016.
Diets high in readily digested carbohydrates, such as those found in most processed foods, have been shown by numerous studies to be associated with an increased risk of cancer. For example, a study of women found that those consuming a diet consisting of large amounts of high-GI foods were 57 percent more likely to develop breast cancer. Other studies have supported the findings that increased consumption of processed and high-GI carbohydrates leads to increased risk of cancer.
Glycemic index (GI) is a commonly used method of measuring the quality of dietary carbohydrates. Specifically, it is used to measure how fast a food typically causes blood sugar levels rise after a meal. Prior research looked at factors impacting cancer risk, including not only GI, but glycemic load (GL), which is a measure of carbohydrate quantity.
How does higher blood glucose increase your risk of lung cancer?
Researchers surveyed 1,905 MD Anderson patients who were newly diagnosed with lung cancer, along with 2,413 healthy individuals who agreed to be in the study. Participants were asked to self-report past dietary habits and health histories. Using published food GI values, subjects were divided into five equal groups, based on their GI and GL values.
Elevated levels of blood glucose and insulin raised what’s called insulin-like growth factors, which are linked to an increased lung cancer risk, according to the scientists.
Among nonsmokers, those in the higher groups were more than twice as likely to develop lung cancer compared to those in the lower group. On the other hand, GL was found to have no impact on lung cancer risk among the Texas study subjects, though it has previously been linked to increased risk of other types of cancer.
Elevated insulin levels have been shown to represent a potential breast cancer threat because insulin is thought to stimulate breast cancer cells to grow and reproduce. High-carbohydrate intake has also been linked to a dangerous growth factor known as insulin-like growth factor 1 or IGF-1 believed to be a factor in a number of cancers, including breast and prostate.
Front organizations continue to call foul over evidence of dietary links to cancer
While results of this latest study should come as no surprise to scientists studying the impact of diet on cancer risk, these findings received a cold reception from some corners. The front group – The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) – immediately took to blogging in an effort to discredit the study.
While it bills itself as an independent research and advocacy organization devoted to debunking “junk science,” in reality, ACSH’s list of donors and backers includes some of the most prominent names among pharmaceutical, tobacco, chemical, cosmetic, food, soda, agriculture and energy corporations. Failing to acknowledge the growing mountain of evidence linking dietary choices to all types of illnesses, including cancer, seems to fly in the face of the group’s stated purpose to advocate on behalf of consumers.
Increase complex carbs to reduce risk of cancer and other chronic diseases
The message to be taken from the latest research results is straightforward: Avoid simple carbs and other foods with a high glycemic index to reduce your risk of cancer. In addition to cancer, high-glycemic foods have been linked to heart disease, memory loss, acne, depression and aggression, among other unwelcomed conditions.
When selecting foods, keep in mind that the GI of a food is often different when eaten alone than it is when combined with other foods. In fact, when eating a high GI food, you can actually combine it with other low GI foods to balance out the impact on blood glucose levels.
While it is good to be aware of a food’s GI, know that some nutritious foods have a higher GI than those with little nutritional value. For example, oatmeal has a higher GI than chocolate.
When planning your diet, be sure to included a variety of healthy, nutritious foods. Keep a food’s GI in mind, but don’t feel as though it is the only measure of a food’s advantages. Even the American Diabetes Association admits, factors that can affect the GI of a food include storage time, ripeness, cooking method, processing and – in some cases – the variety of the food. Be cautious about your use of the GI index and use other nutritional information to determine if a food should be incorporated into your diet.
Low GI foods are typically considered those having a GI of 55 or less, such as 100 percent stone-ground whole wheat bread, most fruits, non-starchy vegetables, and carrots, among others. Foods with high GIs of 70 or more include white breads and bagels, white rice, melons, pineapple, macaroni and cheese from a mix and instant oatmeal.
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