Another reason to avoid highly processed carbs: cancer protection

April 7, 2016 in Cancer Prevention, Nutrition Topics in the News, Weight Management

Another reason to avoid highly processed carbs: cancer protection

A new study highlights one more reason to avoid sugary drinks, processed foods and other energy-dense carbohydrate-containing foods: cutting them may help reduce your risk of cancer.

In the new study from New York University, regular consumption of sugary beverages was associated with a 3 times greater risk of prostate cancer. And a higher intake of processed lunch foods such as pizza, burgers and meat sandwiches doubled prostate cancer risk.

On the other hand, healthy carbohydrate-containing foods like legumes, non-starchy vegetables, fruits and whole grains were associated with a 67 percent lower risk for breast cancer.

The research was presented on April 5th at the American Society for Nutrition Scientific Sessions and Annual Meeting during Experimental Biology 2016.

The study is based on the health records of 3,100 volunteers tracked since the early 1970s. Researchers began tracking participants' diets through detailed food frequency questionnaires starting in 1991.

The researchers categorized all of the study participants' food sources by glycemic index -- a measure of dietary carbohydrate quality based on a food’s impact on blood sugar level -- and glycemic load, a measure of both the quantity and quality of carbohydrates in a given food item. They then analyzed the results in relation to volunteers' cancer rates.

High glycemic diet, processed lunches tied to prostate cancer risk

After taking into account multiple cancer risk factors, the study found that eating foods with a higher glycemic load was associated with an 88 percent higher prostate cancer risk. Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men.

The risk increase was most pronounced for people who regularly consumed processed lunch foods or sugary beverages, a category that includes sugar-sweetened soft drinks in addition to fruit juices, which can be naturally high in sugar and often contain added sugars.

Sugar-sweetened beverages have been shown to increase the risk of obesity and diabetes, and this study suggests that they may also increase cancer risk.

Low glycemic foods found to guard against breast cancer

By contrast, consuming low-glycemic index foods such as legumes, non-starchy vegetables, most fruits and whole grains was associated with a 67 percent lower breast cancer risk.

Breast cancer risk was also reduced among women who had a higher level of carbohydrate intake overall as a proportion of their total calories. However, in this study participants with in the highest level of carbohydrate intake also had higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes. These findings underscore the idea that the type of carbohydrates matters more than the total amount of carbohydrates.

Pulses linked to lower risk of overweight

Among individual foods, legumes such as beans, lentils and peas were associated with 32 percent lower risk of all overweight- and obesity-related cancers, including breast, prostate and colorectal cancers.

By nature of the study design, the results point only to associations, not to cause-and-effect. Nonetheless, the findings are in line with previous studies, which have shown that malignant cancer cells seem to feed on sugar, and that diets high in refined carbohydrates may lead to a range of adverse health effects primarily due to their impacts on body fatness and on the dysregulation of insulin and glucose, both of which are factors that may increase cancer risk.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.