OMG -- Can Eating Carbs Cause Lung Cancer?


If you're a lover of doughnuts and bagels, you better finish up before you read this. Obvs, carb-rich foods have already been vilified as one of the main contributors to the obesity epidemic. But a new study connects simple carbohydrates with another alarming health condition: lung cancer.


A recently published article in the medical journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention explained a significant link observed between glycemic index and lung cancer. Glycemic index (GI) is how quickly carbs boost your sugar levels.

Foods with high GI levels include cookies, white bread, pretzels, and mac and cheese. (Also white potatoes, pineapple, and pumpkin.) On the list of low GI foods: 100 percent whole-wheat bread, most fruits, dried beans, and non-starchy veggies.

According to researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, eating lots of high-GI foods disrupts something called insulin-like growth factors (IGF), which are supposed to assist the body in bringing down glucose levels. High levels of IGFs appear to up people's risk of developing lung cancer. And weirdly, people who've never smoked may be more vulnerable than smokers.

It's a shocker, right? And gets our already paranoid minds reeling -- is a plate of french fries as bad as asbestos? Are frosted cupcakes the new cigarettes? WTF?

Before you feel like the worst mom in the world for putting COOKIES in your kid's lunch today, let's put this in context.

More from The Stir: Giving Up Carbohydrates? 5 Things to Know Before You Do

According to a statement made by the the American Lung Association, this study doesn't establish causality. (That is, it doesn't firmly establish that eating carbs leads to lung cancer.) It only points out a connection that warrants further research.

And the study's researchers apparently didn't factor in that some of their test subjects had health issues like hypertension or diabetes. They also relied on subjects to report their diets, and please -- if someone asked you what you had to eat yesterday, how accurate would you be?

Plus, "the effect is small, about the smallest that can be detected," Norman H. Edelman, MD, senior consultant for scientific affairs at the American Lung Association, told The Stir. "For example, the risk is about 5 percent of the risk of smoking."

That said, the study is not the first to find a connection between high-GI foods and lung cancer. Because of that, the researchers suggest cutting back on foods that raise your blood sugar quickly.

Should we ALL be doing that?

"You got that right," says Dr. Edelman. "We should be avoiding sugar and starch anyway, not only to reduce the risk of cancer but of cardiovascular disease and diabetes."

That said, Dr. Edelman adds, "In no way will a 'good diet' reduce the risk of lung cancer from smoking."

Got all that? So here's your to-do list.

#1. Stop Smoking.

#2. Eat healthier carbs.

#3. Come up with delicious low-GI cupcakes already and please, share with the world when you do. 

Your lungs -- and ours -- thank you in advance.



Image via MaraZe/Shutterstock

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