Obesity, Insulin Levels and Cancer?
Last week’s LA Times article on Obesity’s Role in Cancer was timely. We know excess weight is critical in the development of diabetes and heart disease. But now a correlation between increased weight and cancer?
About ten years back one of my clients brought in an article linking high insulin levels to cancer. Since one of my specialties is diabetes I follow all the research on diet affecting insulin levels. Now cancer was in the mix as well?
Research over the last few years has linked high insulin levels to development of certain types of cancers and its reoccurrence. A diet high in processed carbohydrates increases production of insulin, which in turn can increase cell growth of tumors in the body. When insulin levels are high, tumor cells are fed, thus dividing and multiplying.
So is there a connection between carbohydrates and cancer? Hmm – let me rethink that plate of pasta.
A group of researchers examined the records of 89,000 women participating in the Nurses’ Health study in 2002. The women who were overweight, did not get much exercise, and ate a lot of starchy foods were 2.5 times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who ate healthy carbohydrates.
One of the co-authors of the study, Charles S. Fuchs, discussed how replacing starchy foods that increase insulin levels with healthy carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables can improve your health by not only lowering risk of cancer, but diabetes and cardiovascular disease as well.
In 2007, a major report called Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective was published linking cancer to diet, physical activity, and weight. The most profound finding of the report linked excess body fat to six types of cancer, including colon, kidney, pancreas, and adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and endometrium and post-menopausal breast cancer.
So let’s break it down. Excess weight and eating starchy carbs increase insulin levels which can increase growth of tumors and cancer risk. Our romance with the taste and feel of comfort food – starchy carbohydrates – may not be achieving the health we so desire.
To keep your insulin levels normal try eating some protein at each meal or snack along with a healthy source of carbohydrate like veggies/salad, nuts/seeds, and add some healthy fats.
Imagine a salad with greens, goat cheese, pine nuts, avocado, tomatoes and some extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Healthy CAN be tasty and enjoyable AND help you prevent cancer!
Harvard researcher Walter Willett, M.D. states “Obesity is approaching smoking as a cancer risk.” Perhaps now is the time to tackle the problem of food with the same vengeance as the anti-smoking campaigns.