- High carbohydrate intake, particularly starch, may heighten the risk of breast cancer recurrence according to a study led by Jennifer Emond, a Ph.D. student at the University of California, San Diego.
- All carbohydrates are not equal in their nutritional components. Refined carbohydrates, for examples in white breads and pasta, contain more starch as compared to whole grains.
- The research data indicated a 9.7% recurrence of cancer in those who dramatically reduced their intake of starchy foods, in comparison with a 14.2% recurrence rate in those increasing their starchy food consumption the most.
- Starchy foods may contribute to an increased risk of breast cancer due to their potential to raise insulin levels.
- A separate study found that a low-carb diet applied two days a week resulted in more significant weight loss and a better reduction in insulin levels than a standard low-calorie regimen applied daily.
Fresh research findings suggest that a high intake of starchy, carbohydrate-rich foods could heighten the risk of breast cancer recurrence.
Investigating the Relationship between Starchy Foods and Breast Cancer Recurrence
Jennifer Emond, a Ph.D. public health student at the University of California, San Diego, examined dietary changes in breast cancer survivors over a one-year period. More specifically, she observed changes in consumption of starchy foods like potatoes. Emond then monitored the number of cancer recurrences.
Emond reports that “Individuals who saw an increase in their carbohydrate, and particularly their starch intake, were faced with a higher risk of recurrence as opposed to those that saw a decrease.” Although the correlation between a high-carb diet and augmented breast cancer risk has been noted previously, this study specifically focuses on the consumption of starchy carbs.
The Impact of Carbohydrate Variety on Health
All carbohydrates provide essential nutrients and energy. However, not all carbs are created equal. For instance, refined carbohydrates found in white breads and pasta contain more starch than whole grains.
Observing Starch Intake and Cancer Recurrence Patterns
To conduct her research, Emond analyzed data from the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living Dietary Intervention Trial. This study looked at the impact of a plant-based diet on breast cancer survivors.
Emond divided approximately 2,650 women into four groups based on their level of carbohydrate intake. The findings showed a 9.7% recurrence of cancer in those who reduced their starch intake the most, compared to a 14.2% recurrence in those with the greatest increase in starch consumption.
Participants reported their carbohydrate intake at the beginning and end of the study. Those who experienced cancer recurrence had an average daily carbohydrate increase of 2.3 grams, while those who did not have a recurrence, saw an average daily reduction of 2.7 grams.
Understanding the Role of Starchy Foods
Emond reports that changes in starch consumption accounted for nearly half the changes in total carbohydrate intake. Although the specific link between starch and breast cancer recurrence is not completely clear, it’s important to note that starchy foods can increase insulin levels, leading potentially to a higher breast cancer risk.
Suggestions for Healthy Eating
Both Emond and Marji McCullough, the strategic director of nutritional epidemiology for the American Cancer Society, believe further research is needed before making concrete dietary recommendations. In the meantime, following the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans could be beneficial. These guidelines advise limiting foods with added sugars that contribute to starch intake.
Looking at Low-Carb Diets and Their Impacts
In related research, it was discovered that a low-carbohydrate diet followed only two days a week resulted in more significant weight loss than a daily low-calorie diet over a four-month period. Furthermore, the low-carb plan was found to be more effective in reducing insulin levels, a finding McCullough describes as “intriguing”.
Note that research findings from medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
For more information about diet and its connection to breast cancer risk, please visit the American Cancer Society.