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Diet linked to breast cancer risk

Consuming a high GI diet may increase the risk of breast cancer by 8 per cent, according to a leading nutrition researcher.

Professor Jennie Brand-Miller from the University of Sydney’s medical school has said a scientific review of 10 studies showed eating a high GI diet for five years or more could increase the risk of breast cancer compared with a low GI diet.

"With the average Australian diet consisting of far too many high GI foods, this is a major cause for concern," she said. GI was the most consistent dietary factor identified by the review.

"A high GI diet produces high glucose and insulin levels and that is relevant in the case of any cancer because cancer cells thrive on glucose. It is like adding fertiliser. If you have a breast cancer cell it is encouraged to grow by high levels of insulin."

Brand-Miller said there are uncontrollable risk factors for breast cancer such as genetics, menopause and family history, but lifestyle-related risk factors could be altered to lower a person’s cancer risk. This means not drinking too much alcohol, avoiding high-fat diets, eating less highly processed meat and reducing body fat.

She said consuming a low GI diet could help prevent cancer by reducing body fat and insulin levels.

“Consuming a low GI diet reduces both glucose and insulin levels, helping us to burn more fat and avoid weight gain over the longer term.  Insulin is a hormone that drives cell growth and multiplication - if you have a mutated cell then it grows faster and bigger under the influence of high insulin.

"Secondly, some breast cancer cells positively thrive on oestrogen. Body fat manufactures and releases oestrogen which can aid the spread of breast cancer. Overweight women are more likely to have breast cancer for this reason."


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