Ready for some anti-cancer nonsense? This weekend, the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation is sponsoring– get this– the Montreal Cake Show! Last time I checked the anti-cancer diet books, cake was definitely off the menu.
In fact, the esteemed World Cancer Research Fund/ American Institute of Cancer Research panel of scientists just issued this proclamation:
Diets with high glycemic loads increase the risk of endometrial cancer, the most common form of reproductive cancer in women.
Glycemic loads? When you eat foods with sugars, be they simple sugars like the granules used to sweeten cake or the more complex chains of sugar molecules called carbohydrates, they get converted into glucose. In turn, glucose signals your pancreas to release insulin, which ushers the glucose from your blood into your cells so they can burn it for energy.
Your glycemic response to a food is a measure of how quickly a food causes your blood sugar to rise. Once upon a time, scientists measured foods on a scale called the Glycemic Index, with pure glucose assigned the highest value, 100. Now, they prefer to talk about Glycemic Load because it takes into account a typical portion size of whatever food you’re eating.
No matter how you cut it, though, cake, with its sugar and flours (not to mention whatever’s in that icing), tops the charts when it comes to glycemic response. You might as well be drinking insulin.
High levels of insulin circulating in the blood create an environment that promotes cancer development. Insulin itself signals all cells, including cancerous ones, to grow and divide. Plus, it increases the activity of a related hormone, called Insulin Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1), which helps cancer cells evade apoptosis (a fancy word for cell suicide, which all normal cells eventually commit.) Insulin’s cascade of actions also leads to reductions in your Sex Hormone Binding Globulin, leaving estrogen and testosterone to circulate in your blood.
So what about breast cancer? Although admittedly the picture isn’t entirely clear yet, many studies as well as studies of studies have found a link. In a recent analysis of 17 studies involving approximately 5000 women with breast cancer, high IGF-1 levels were associated with an increased risk of estrogen positive breast cancer. Another recent analysis of more than 12,000 women found that diets with high carb intake and high glycemic loads were associated, in postmenopausal women, with estrogen negative breast cancer, considered the more dangerous kind.
Is that enough doubt to make you reach for the nuts instead? If not, then have a look at this video in which the head of Memorial Sloan-Kettering disses excess carbs.
Let us eat cake? Ok, one piece occasionally, but sponsoring an entire cake show makes me want to barf. If Quebec’s Breast Cancer Foundation plans to promote some anti-cancer diet sense, they should start by eating crow.