Frequently here in Mais Saúde, we discuss dietary measures you can take that will decrease your risk of getting cancer, but what if you or a loved one does come down with cancer? Is there anything you can do from a dietary standpoint that will increase your chances for cure?
Fortunately, some research over the past few years points to dietary measures you can take that just might help you.
Dr. Jeffrey A. Meyerhardt and associates at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, found in earlier research that people recently treated for Stage 3 colon cancer who followed a traditional “Western-style diet”—lots of meats, sugar, fats, and refined grains rather than whole grains—had a three times greater chance of suffering a recurrence or death from the cancer than people who followed a healthier diet.
Dr. Meyerhardt’s current study, published in the November 7, 2012 Journal of the National Cancer Institute, followed 1011 patients who had been treated for Stage 3 colon cancer with surgery and chemotherapy. All these patients filled out regular dietary surveys over the following years, and at the end of the study, the researchers looked at one specific part of their diet—their carbohydrate intake—to see if and how that may have influenced if their cancer recurred or not.
The researchers divided the 1011 individuals into five categories based on how much carbohydrates they consumed, and specifically the glycemic load of their diet; meaning, essentially, if they ate lots of simple sugars that raised their blood glucose level quickly (high glycemic load), or instead ate more foods with a lower glycemic load such as whole grains and brown rice.
The results were rather amazing. The people who ate the most carbohydrates with a high glycemic load had an 80% higher chance of suffering a recurrence of their cancer or dying of their cancer than people in the group of people with the lowest glycemic load intake.
When a person consumes lots of “simple” carbohydrates such as sugary deserts, sugared sodas, and white rice, they get fast peaks of sugar in their system, and that means their body has to pump out lots of insulin to metabolize (process) these sugars. The belief is that chronically high levels of insulin in the body (produced from eating too much sugar, NOT from injected insulin by diabetics) somehow fuels the growth of cancer cells, and/or prevents apoptosis, which is the death of individual cancer cells.
What It Means for You
If you, or someone you know, has or has had colon cancer you should stick to a diet of fewer carbohydrates, and the carbohydrates you do eat should be of the healthier low glycemic load type. And even though this research was conducted only in colon cancer patients, researchers in the future will conduct studies on other types of cancers, and most likely the same findings will hold true for many other cancer types also.
Next week we will devote an entire post to the concept of glycemic load, including a list of specific foods in the low and high group.
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