Increased consumption of carbohydrate-rich foods, especially starches, may boost the risk of breast cancer recurrence, new research finds.
Researcher Jennifer Emond, a public health doctoral student at the University of California, San Diego, looked at changes in the amount of carbohydrates, particularly starchy foods such as potatoes, that breast cancer survivors ate over a one-year period. Then she tracked the number of recurrences.
“Women who increased their carbohydrates and particularly their starch intake had a greater risk of recurrence than the women who decreased [it],” she said.
A link between a high-carb diet and a higher breast cancer risk has been reported before, but this new study focused particularly on starchy carbs, said Emond. She was scheduled to present the findings this week at the 2011 San Antonio Breast Cancer Conference.
Carbohydrates provide needed nutrients and energy, but some carbs are healthier than others. Refined carbohydrates, such as white breads and white pasta, contain more starch than whole grains. “We didn’t pinpoint the exact foods,” Emond said.
Emond looked at a subset of women who participated in the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living Dietary Intervention Trial, which evaluated the effects of a plant-based diet for breast cancer survivors.
She divided the roughly 2,650 women into four groups, based on lowest to highest carbohydrate intake. She found that cancer recurred in 9.7 percent of those who decreased starch consumption the most compared with 14.2 percent of those with the biggest increase in starch consumption.
Coupling this news with a new study that claims that cutting carbs at least twice a week leads to significant weight loss, we’ll have to concede that protein is having the best week ever:
The researchers followed 88 women for four months. All the women were at high risk for breast cancer based on their family histories.
One third of the women were put on a Mediterranean-type diet that restricted calories to about 1,500 per day. A second group was told to eat normally most of the time, but two days a week to cut carbs and also calories to about 650 on those two days. The third group was also to cut carbs two days a week, but there was no calorie restriction on those days.
At the end of four weeks women in both of the intermittent dieting groups had lost more weight — about 9 pounds — than the women who ate low calorie meals every day of the week — about 5 pounds.
Women in the intermittent dieting groups also had better improvement than daily dieters in the levels of hormones — insulin and leptin — that have been linked with breast cancer risk, Harvie said.