By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD
A long-running study suggests that a diet high in starch increases insulin and so raises the risk of pancreatic cancer.
Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health and elsewhere have been following nearly 89,000 women for many years now in the famous Nurses Health Study.
They found that overweight women whose diet was rich in so called high glycemic index foods ran a 53 per cent higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer. High glycemic index foods are those that load the blood with sugar, stimulating insulin production. Examples include white bread, white rice and potatoes. It's believed that high insulin levels raise the risk of pancreatic cancer. Given that pancreatic cancer has a low survival rate, it's important to know more of the risk factors involved. Till now, smoking was the only identified risk factor.
Interestingly, women who were fit and not overweight had no increased pancreatic cancer risk, even if they also consumed foods with a high glycemic index. The researchers suggest that women can reduce a high glycemic load by substituting less starchy vegetables - broccoli for potatoes, for instance - and by snacking on fruit.
Journal of the National Cancer Institute 4th September 2002