Breast Cancer and Blood Sugar: Are they Linked?

By Dr. Caroline Cederquist and Joy Lynn Post –

Breast Cancer and Blood SugarIf you choose to eat lots of veggies and go for walks each day, you are helping prevent certain cancers with every bite and with every step.You are also deterring diabetes. It may be a little surprising that these two major health issues, cancer and blood sugar, are interconnected, but they are. In fact, regulating your blood sugars is linked with a huge 81% reduction in your risk of developing breast cancer.

All forms of cancer are closely linked with dietary and lifestyle choices. Breast cancer risk in particular is connected to your daily food choices. Especially when it comes to foods that affect your blood sugar. Foods like potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, muffins, and sweet foods like desserts, candy, and sugary sodas all cause major fluctuations in your blood sugar. These changes cause your body to respond with certain hormones. And these hormones are tied to breast cancer in women, and men as well.

Research has been conflicted about whether or not the amount of carbohydrates and sugar a person eats impacts his or her chances of developing breast cancer. But more and more studies are showing that it is indeed related.

An Italian study that followed almost 9,000 women for 17 years showed that women with higher glycemic diets were more likely to develop breast cancer, particularly in women who were not overweight and had normal BMIs. A normal BMI is defined as 18.5 to 25 kg/m2. Additionally, both carbohydrate intake and glycemic load were linked with the most common type of breast cancer, estrogen receptor positive breast cancer.

Foods like potatoes, white rice and white bread have high glycemic load, which means a lot of sugar gets dumped into the bloodstream quickly after eating these foods.

Other carbohydrate sources, such as high-fiber cereals or beans, create a more gradual change in blood sugar and have a low glycemic load.
Women who ate a high glycemic load diet had a whopping 81% increased risk of breast cancer, compared to women who ate a lower glycemic diet. This is staggering, and we aren’t used to thinking that diet could have such an impact on something like cancer. But it can.

The theory behind why this is true involves hormones. With diets high in simple carbohydrates, there is a corresponding high insulin and sex hormone concentration in the body. This high concentration of insulin and estrogen, in particular, has been linked to the development and spreading of breast cancer cells.

In fact, a very important goal for reducing breast cancer risk is to ensure you have normal fasting insulin levels. This is a very simple test that any physician can order, and tell whether your fasting insulin levels are normal or not.

The bottom line for breast health is to ensure that if you do eat carbohydrates, choose ones that are slowly absorbed, such as vegetables, beans and whole grain wraps or breads, lentils, peas, and low-sugar fruits like berries and apples.

Making healthy food choices like these will not only help reduce your risk for breast cancer, but many other health issues that are plaguing our society. Choosing slowly absorbed carbohydrates can reduce your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, obesity, stroke, neuropathy, poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), certain cancers, and the list goes on! Each day, our patients learn how to choose the right kinds of carbohydrates for their health, and you’ll be surprised what a difference this can make in your personal health and quality of life.

Cederquist Medical Wellness Center
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