Lung Cancer Linked to Eating Junk Foods

junk food linked to lung cancer

Junk foods cover the aisles of most markets.

Research from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston has linked diets rich in junk foods to lung cancer.

The research assessed the diets of 1,905 people who were recently diagnosed with lung cancer, and compared these to the diets of 2,413 healthy people. In particular, they assessed their glycemic consumption, according to the glycemic index.

The researchers found those with diets with more foods high on the glycemic index had a 48 to 49 percent increased risk of lung cancer.

What are high glycemic index foods?

High glycemic foods are basically generalized as carbohydrate-based foods that have been refined in some form. In the case of grain-based foods, these are foods that have had the fiber removed.

There are other types of refined foods that have high glycemic index levels. These include fruits where the pulp (fiber) has been removed. Or grains that have been stripped of their fiber, leaving a white flour. Or sugar cane where all the plant fibers are removed, leaving a refined sugar. Or corn where all the corn fiber and nutrients have been removed, yielding corn syrup.

These types of foods are highly glycemic because they are devoid of the natural plant fibers and micronutrients that naturally slow down the absorption of the glucose contained within the food. These refined foods surge glucose into the blood – and thus increase what is called our glycemic load.

Yes, our bodies do need glucose for our cells to operate efficiently. But too much too fast is not healthy.

In such a refined state, these high glycemic foods dramatically increase the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Such a condition puts pressure on all of the body’s sugar-handling systems. These include the pancreas that produces insulin, the cells that receive the insulin and sugars, and the entire cardiovascular system that must fend off from the over-supply of sugar in the bloodstream.

For some clarity on the index itself, here is a searchable glycemic index based upon the USDA list of foods.

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Free glucose free radicals

Free glucose blood sugars can oxidize if they are not immediately utilized by cells.  This over-supply of sugar in the bloodstream produces an influx of oxidized free radicals. These free radicals damage everything from blood vessels to any organ that is fed by the blood.

Such a condition also produces type-two diabetes, as the body reacts with an inflammatory response to this dramatic influx of free glucose. Involved with type two-diabetes is insulin and glucose resistance within the cells. This produces a vicious cycle of increase free glucose in the blood.

The damage to the body, as a result, includes the lungs. The lungs are also made of cells and these must also have a good supply of well-timed energy. Lung cells must also be protected against free radicals. Free radicals on the loose within the bloodstream do more than produce atherosclerosis and dementia. They also are implicated in lung conditions such as asthma and COPD.

But these free radicals produced by free glucose can also damage the DNA of cells. When this happens, the risk of any type of cancer is increased. The researchers of this study confirmed this as they stated:

“Postprandial glucose and insulin responses play a role in carcinogenesis.”

The term “postprandial glucose” refers to high glucose levels that result from eating a meal of refined foods – outside of the body’s normal healthy insulin response when whole foods are eaten.

We’re talking junk foods here

Refined carbohydrates are basically junk foods. Junk foods such as white bread, cakes, cookies, candies, soda pop and so many others are the foods with the highest glycemic levels.

Some of these junk foods have become staples in the Western diet. Such is the case for white bread, cake, donuts and so on.

Some of these foods might even be labeled as “natural” or “organic.” But we must look for their tell-tale signs – their processed, refined ingredients. These will reveal that what might have originally been a healthy fiber-rich plant food, is not a high glycemic index junk food.

Some fruits have high glycemic load numbers. However, fresh whole fruits also contain pulp and numerous anticancer micronutrients, as we’ll discuss below. These balance and neutralize free radicals.

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Are all carbs bad?

Many media outlets have erroneously announced this study means that carbohydrates increase the risk of cancer.

Such a broad statement is like saying that air causes lung disease.

The reality is that fiber-rich carbohydrates are necessary for the human body to maintain health. Our digestive tracts were designed for fermenting (with probiotics) fiber-rich whole carbohydrates. If we were meant to eat only meat we would have basically straight tubes for intestines. Instead, our digestive tracts are windy and meant to ferment and digest fiber.

This is why our salivary glands and gastric cells produce amylase and other enzymes that break down start. Its also why our digestive tracts mirror those of other plant-eaters in the animal kingdom. Our bodies were designed to eat plant-based fibers.

Fiber-rich carbs help prevent cancer and increase longevity

Furthermore, scientific research has confirmed that fiber-rich whole plant-based foods decrease the risk of most cancers and extend longevity in general.

There is an incredible supply of clear evidence proving this, as I provide in my book.

For example, phytosterols, which come from fiber-rich whole carbohydrates from plant sources, have been shown to decrease the risk of many types of cancers.

In a review of the research, University of Manitoba scientists concluded:

“Phytosterols have been reported to alleviate cancers of breast, prostate, lung, liver, stomach and ovary.”

The “phyto” in phytosterols means these come from plants.

Fiber-rich plant-based grains and cereals have also been proven in many studies to reduce the risk of other cancers, such as colorectal and prostate.

For example, a late 2015 study from the Queen’s University in Belfast followed over 57,000 people for three and five years. They found those who ate the highest amount of dietary fiber had a 24 percent decreased risk of distal colorectal cancer, and a 38 percent decreased risk of distal colon cancer.

In another study, scientists from the Danish Cancer Society Research Center followed 108,000 people for 11 years. They found those who ate the highest amounts of whole grains had a 34 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer compared to those who ate the lowest amounts of whole grains. These included whole-wheat bread and cereals.

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They also found that the risk of colorectal cancer fell by six percent for every 50 grams of additional whole grain eaten a day.

Even whole-wheat bread and high-fiber cereals have been shown to reduce the occurrence of cancer, and a longer life in general.

Illustrating this, Danish and Swedish medical researchers followed more than 120,000 people. They tracked their diets between 1992 and 2009. The researchers found that those who ate more fiber-rich breakfast cereal and non-white bread (basically, whole wheat breads) had a 32 percent reduced risk of death from all causes during the period.

This translates to those who eat whole grains living longer – quite possibly up to a third.

Many, many other studies show this association between whole plant foods and a reduction of cancer risk along with other health benefits. We have discussed some of this research elsewhere in this website. But the science is more completely discussed in the Ancestor’s Diet. I hope, for the sake of your health and longevity, that you consider taking a read through this book. The price of this more-than 400-page book is significantly discounted for this very reason.



Melkonian SC, Daniel CR, Ye Y, Pierzynski JA, Roth JA, Wu X. Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load, and Lung Cancer Risk in Non-Hispanic Whites. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2016 Mar;25(3):532-9. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-0765.

Kunzmann AT, Coleman HG, Huang WY, Kitahara CM, Cantwell MM, Berndt SI. Dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer and incident and recurrent adenoma in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Oct;102(4):881-90. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.113282.

Kyrø C, Skeie G, Loft S, Landberg R, Christensen J, Lund E, Nilsson LM, Palmqvist R, Tjønneland A, Olsen A. Intake of whole grains from different cereal and food sources and incidence of colorectal cancer in the Scandinavian HELGA cohort. Cancer Causes Control. 2013 Jul;24(7):1363-74. doi: 10.1007/s10552-013-0215-z.

Johnsen NF, Frederiksen K, Christensen J, Skeie G, Lund E, Landberg R, Johansson I, Nilsson LM, Halkjær J, Olsen A, Overvad K, Tjønneland A. Whole-grain products and whole-grain types are associated with lower all-cause and cause-specific mortality in the Scandinavian HELGA cohort. Br J Nutr. 2015 Aug 28;114(4):608-23. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515001701.

Ramprasath VR, Awad AB. Role of Phytosterols in Cancer Prevention and Treatment. J AOAC Int. 2015 May-Jun;98(3):735-8. doi: 10.5740/jaoacint.SGERamprasath.

Glycemic index and load defined

Case Adams, PhD

Case Adams has a Ph.D. in Natural Health Sciences, is a California Naturopath and is Board Certified as an Alternative Medicine Practitioner, with clinical experience and diplomas in Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling, Homeopathy and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 27 books and numerous articles on print and online magazines. Contact: [email protected]

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