Even if you’ve never smoked a cigarette, what’s on your plate could determine your odds of getting lung cancer, according to new research.
A new study from scientists at the University of Texas found people whose diets had a high glycemic index had a 49 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with lung cancer. It is the largest study that has been done investigating the link between the two, according to the study's authors.
Glycemic index (GI) measures the quality of dietary carbohydrates by how quickly blood sugar levels are raised following a meal. Foods with high glycemic indexes include white bread, pretzels, bagels, baguettes, white rice, corn flakes, rice cakes and white potatoes. In other words, carbohydrates that can easily be converted into sugar.
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Perhaps more surprising is the study found people in the highest GI group who had never smoked before were more than twice as likely to develop lung cancer as those in the lowest group. Among smokers, the risk was only elevated by 31 percent, according to the research.
“This suggests that it is the average quality, instead of quantity, of carbohydrates consumed that may modulate lung cancer risk,” explained Epidemiology professor Xifeng Wu, senior author of the study.
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women, not counting skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, and is the most deadly. About 158,000 people in the U.S. are expected to die of lung cancer this year, or about 1 in 4 cancer deaths.
“The results from this study suggest that, besides maintaining healthy lifestyles, such as avoiding tobacco, limiting alcohol consumption and being physically active, reducing the consumption of foods and beverages with high glycemic index may serve as a means to lower the risk of lung cancer,” Wu said.
The association between glycemic index and lung cancer risk that causes the correlation was still unclear, Wu said.
Examples of low-GI foods include whole-wheat or pumpernickel bread, rolled or steel-cut oatmeal and pasta.