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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

Carbs, Sugar Don't Up Colon Cancer Risk

What Does? Too Little Fiber, Too Much Fat
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WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

June 17, 2003 -- Starchy, sugary foods -- cakes, cookies, white bread, pasta, potatoes -- aren't exactly a great diet. But they don't increase your colon cancer risk.

Studies have suggested that a diet full of carbohydrates and sugary foods may increase colon cancer risk. These studies suggested that such a diet leads to higher levels of insulin in the blood. Insulin is one of the main hormones that regulate blood sugar levels. In fact, women's risk increased by 69% and men's by 87% in one study.

New Findings

However, that study and others like it have flaws -- mostly because they rely on people's memories about what they've eaten, which is often not accurate, according to lead researcher Paul D. Terry, an epidemiologist with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

In his study, Terry and his colleagues surveyed nearly 50,000 women in 1982 about their diet and physical activity. They then followed up with the women 16 years later, identifying 616 cases of colon cancer -- and again asking about diet and physical activity. Their findings are published in this week's Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Those women who ate a high-starch diet did not have higher colon cancer risk, Terry reports. In addition, they found no increase in colon cancer risk among women with a diet rich in sugary foods.

The National Cancer Institute recommends a low-fat, high-fiber diet that includes at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day to decrease colon cancer risk. Major sources of fat are meat, eggs, dairy products, and oils used in cooking and salad dressings. To increase the amount of fiber in your diet, eat more vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain breads and cereals.

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