Carbohydrates were linked to lung cancer in a study conducted by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Although smoking remains one of the most prominent risk factors for the devastating disease, the recent study suggests higher carbohydrate intake and blood sugar levels may also be a factor.
The study, which was authored by University of Texas professor Dr. Xifeng Wu, and published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention, examined the dietary behavior and health histories of 4,318 people. A total of 1,905 of those interviewed were newly diagnosed with lung cancer. The remaining 2,413 participants were healthy controls.
When examining the participants’ diets, the researchers calculated the glycemic index values of the foods they commonly eat.
As explained by the University of Sydney, the glycemic index “is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating.”
Essentially, foods with a higher glycemic index are digested more rapidly, and therefore, cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Foods with a lower glycemic index take longer to digest and cause a more gradual increase in blood sugar levels.
Foods with a lower glycemic index are generally rich in complex carbohydrates and include 100 percent whole grains, beans, and sweet potatoes. Foods with a lower glycemic index contain refined carbohydrates and include many fruits, white rice, and white bread.
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People whose diets are high in refined carbohydrates, and therefore lower on the glycemic index, are at risk of developing diabetes and coronary heart disease. The University of Texas study also found a link between carbohydrates and lung cancer.
Squamous cell lung carcinoma is generally associated with smoking cigarettes. However, participants’ whose diets were high on the glycemic index were up to 92 percent more likely to develop the deadly disease. U.S. News reports “never-smokers with the highest glycemic index levels had an 81 percent great risk for lung cancer than those with lower levels.”
Dr. Xifeng Wu concluded, “reducing the consumption of foods and beverages with high glycemic index may serve as a means to lower the risk of lung cancer.”
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In 2016, more than 220,000 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer, and more than 158,000 lung cancer patients will die. According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer will be the second most common form of cancer diagnosed in men and women in 2016. However, it is expected to be the most deadly form of cancer in both sexes.
Over the last 20 years, the number of new men and women diagnosed with lunch cancer has decreased steadily. Health officials believe the trend is directly related to campaigns to combat smoking.
Although smoking is the most prominent risk factor for developing lung cancer, the disease is also linked to exposure to radon gas, asbestos, some metals, and some organic chemicals. The University of Texas study suggests carbohydrates may also be a risk factor.
The American Cancer Society suggests early detection could reduce mortality by as much as 20 percent. However, there is no cure for the devastating disease.
Health officials have long touted the health benefits of complex carbohydrates. In addition to providing essential fiber, minerals, and vitamins, complex carbohydrates can enhance weight loss and prevent a variety of health complications.
Refined carbohydrates, however, have few health benefits and may increase the probability of developing several serious illnesses — including diabetes and heart disease. According to the University of Texas study, the link between carbohydrates and lung cancer is limited to refined carbohydrates.
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