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Benefits of low-carb eating may include reduced breast cancer recurrence

The link between carbohydrate consumption, weight gain, and breast cancer is being further strengthened by a new British study.

Assessing the impact of different diets on the weight and insulin blood levels in 115 women, researchers from England found that those who restricted carbohydrates just two days a week lost more weight and controlled their insulin better than those on full-time diets.

These findings are significant for breast cancer patients for two key reasons. First, according to the American Cancer Society, being overweight or obese has been found to increase women’s breast cancer risk, especially after menopause. A 2002 study indicated that up to 18,000 deaths a year could be prevented if women over 50 maintained a Body Mass Index under 25. Second, because insulin is a cancer-promoting hormone, controlling its levels in the body can help prevent the initiation of cancer or the recurrence of tumors in susceptible women.

“The take home message is that this is potentially a very interesting approach for anybody concerned about weight or insulin,” said Dr. Michelle Harvie, PhD, a registered dietician with the Genesis Prevention Center at the University Hospital in South Manchester, England. She notes, however, that the study is “quite preliminary” and relatively small.

Additionally, Harvie said women must still be mindful about the quality of food they are consuming. “Yes, they were restricted in carbohydrates [to around 50 grams per day], but we were encouraging that they eat lean, healthier proteins and healthy fats” including lean meats, nuts, and olives.

For further information about breast cancer and body weight, study the information in this MedPage Today article, or this article in the L.A. Times.

January 9, 2012