High GI raises cancer risk?

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Carbohydrate, Nutrition, Colorectal cancer

A diet with a high glycaemic load could increase the risk of
colorectal cancer, find US scientists following recent research on
nearly 40,000 middle-aged women. Findings are set to further fire
the ongoing debate on the value of carbohydrates in our daily

Driven by the suggestion that diet could influence colorectal cancer risk, researchers at the university of California studied a group of 38,451 subjects from the Women's Health Study, aged 45 years or older at baseline, for seven years.

They gave them a 131-item semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaire at the start of the study to assess average dietary intake during the previous year.

Women with more than 70 blanks in the questionnaire, or those with a total daily energy intake of less than 2514 kJ or more than 14,665 kJ were excluded.

'We used baseline dietary intake measurements, assessed with a semiquantitative food-frequency questionnaire, to examine the associations of dietary glycemic load, overall dietary glycemic index, carbohydrate, fibre, nonfibre carbohydrate, sucrose, and fructose with the subsequent development of colorectal cancer,?/i> report the scientists in the 4 February of the​ Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Glycaemic load was estimated for each woman by multiplying the glycaemic load for each food by the frequency of consumption and then summing upo all foods.

The researchers identified 174 patients with incident colorectal cancer (148 with cancer of the colon and 26 with cancer of the rectum). The mean dietary glycaemic load for the cohort was 117, and the mean overall glycaemic index was 53.

'Dietary glycaemic load was statistically significantly associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer and was associated, although not statistically significantly, with overall glycemic index,?/i> said the scientists.

They conclude that a diet with a high glycaemic load could increase the risk of colorectal cancer by affecting insulin and insulin-like growth factors or, 'as suggested by the cross-sectional association between dietary glycaemic load and C-reactive protein, by exacerbating pro-inflammatory responses, either locally or systemically.?/i> The researchers called for more research to be carried out in order to 'elucidate the mechanisms.?p> While low carbohydrate diets are currently all the rage in the US, an estimated 30 million Americans are following the low carb dietary regime, Australian dieters are increasingly using the 'glycemic index?(GI) to change their eating habits, and market analysts estimate that this trend could soon make an impact in Europe.

The GI is a numerical system of measuring how fast a food or ingredient triggers a rise in circulating blood glucose; the higher the GI, the greater the blood sugar response. A low GI food will cause a small rise in blood sugar levels, whereas a higher GI food may trigger a large increase.

Market research firm Mintel recently predicted that this type of carbohydrate control could soon take over the popularity of the low carbohydrate Atkins diet in the UK, where obesity affects a growing proportion of people.

Last week UK company Reading Scientific Services (RSSL) said it can now offer a routine GI measurement service to ingredient suppliers and food product manufacturers. Working to a protocol approved by an Independent Ethics Committee, GI testing will be carried out according to internationally agreed standards, using human volunteers participating in the tests under medical supervision.

Full findings of the paper Dietary Glycemic Load and Risk of Colorectal Cancer in the Women's Health Study by Susan Higginbotham, Zuo-Feng Zhang, I-Min Lee, Nancy R. Cook, Edward Giovannucci, Julie E. Buring, and Simin Liu are published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2004)​ Vol. 96, No. 3, 229-233, February 4, 2004 DOI: 10.1093/jnci/djh020.

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