- Eating carb-rich food before treatment of cancer increases mortality risk
- Eating small amounts of carbs after treatment has protective benefits.
- Diet intervention may affect health outcomes in cancer patients.
However, the researchers also said that eating small amounts of good quality carbohydrates in the form of whole grains and legumes after the treatment may actually have protective benefits. The study was conducted with the participation of 400 cancer patients and their pre- and post-treatment diets were analyzed, along with the health outcomes of each. Each participant was followed for a period of 26 months after they were first diagnosed with squamous-cell carcinoma of the head or neck.
The researchers tracked the participants' intake of food, beverages and supplements for the period before the treatment and for a year, after the treatment. The lowest amounts of simple carbohydrates consumed by the patients in the form of desserts, simple sugars and refined grains, was 1.3 servings per person. On the other end of the spectrum were patients who ate 4.4 servings per day, which was considered as high intake of carbs. The results showed that the patients who consumed the most carbohydrates like fructose, sucrose, lactose, maltose, were at higher risks of mortality during the period of the follow up.
From the study sample, the most commonly diagnosed cancers were in the oral cavity and the oropharynx, including cancer on the tonsils, the base of the tongue and the surrounding tissues. A co-author of the study, Amy M. Goss, who is also a professor of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, said in a press release on the University's website, "Our results, along with the findings of other studies, suggest that diet composition can affect cancer outcomes."
She added by saying," We'd like to determine if this is true using a prospective, intervention study design and identify the underlying mechanisms. For example, how does cutting back on sugar and other dietary sources of glucose affect cancer growth?" Another co-author Dr. Laura Q. Rogers, who is also a professor of nutrition sciences at Alabama, Birmingham said in the release, "This study reiterates the importance of additional intervention studies that test optimal diet recommendations for cancer survivors."
Among the sample, close to 70 per cent of the patients were diagnosed when the cancer was in the third or fourth stage and the average age of diagnosis was 61 years. Over 17 per cent of the patients monitored experienced a recurrence of cancer during the follow up period and 42 patients died from it. Mortality rates were high among people with oral cavity cancer who consumed high amounts of carbohydrates.