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High-Carb Diet Associated With Colon Cancer Recurrence

High-Carb Diet Associated With Colon Cancer Recurrence
Colon cancer survivors whose diets are heavy in complex sugars and carbohydrate-rich foods are far more likely to have a recurrence of the disease than are patients who eat a better balance of foods, indicate a new study by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researchers.
The connection is especially strong in patients who are overweight or obese, the authors wrote. More than 1,000 patients with advanced (stage 3) colon cancer participated in the study, one of the first to examine how diet can affect the chances that the disease will recur. The findings are being published online by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

High-Carb Diet Associated With Colon Cancer Recurrence

Although the results point to a potential
hazard of a high-carbohydrate diet for colon cancer patients, the take-home message is not a conclusive “eat less sugar,” says lead author Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH. “Our study certainly supports the idea that diet can impact the progression of colon cancer, and that patients and their doctors should consider this when making post treatment plans, but further research is needed to confirm our findings.”
Recent studies have shown that colorectal cancer survivors whose diet and activity patterns lead to excess amounts of insulin in the blood have a higher risk of cancer recurrence and death from the disease.
In a previous study of advanced-stage colon cancer patients, Meyerhardt and his colleagues found that those with a typical Western diet, marked by high intakes of meat, fat, refined grains, and sugary desserts, were three times more likely to have a cancer recurrence than those whose diets were least Western. The new study was conducted to explore which component of the Western diet is most respon­sible for the increased risk of recurrence.
The study involved 1,011 stage 3 colon cancer patients who had undergone surgery and participated in a National Cancer Institute-sponsored Cancer and Leukemia Group B clinical trial of follow-up chemotherapy for their disease. Participants reported their dietary intake during and six months after the trial.
Researchers tracked the patients’ total carbohydrates as well as their glycemic index and glycemic load and looked for a statistical connection between these measures and colon cancer recurrence.
They found that participants with the highest dietary levels of glycemic load and carbohydrate intake had an 80% increased risk of colon cancer recurrence or death compared with those who had the lowest levels. Among patients who were overweight or obese (BMI above 25), the increase was even greater.
“In light of our and others’ research, we theorize that factors including a high glycemic load may stimulate the body’s produc­tion of insulin,” Meyerhardt says. “That, in turn, may increase the proliferation of cells and prevent the natural cell-death process in cancer cells that have metastasized from their original site.”
Meyerhardt adds that while the study doesn’t prove that diets high in glycemic load and carbohydrate intake cause recur­rence of colon cancer, the results strongly suggest that such dietary factors play a role. “Our findings may offer useful guid­ance for patients and physicians in ways of improving patient survival after treatment,” he says.

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