Association between breast cancer risk and carbohydrate intake

Breast Cancer Risk And Carbohydrate Intake

Can carbohydrate intake actually raise breast cancer risk?

That’s what the headlines and TV sound bites claimed earlier this month. But before you back up the meat truck and swear off all carbs, there’s a little detail hidden in the small print that makes all the difference.

As reported in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, Harvard researchers, working with a team of researchers in Mexico, interviewed 475 women who had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Another group of nearly 1,400 healthy women of the same age range (20 to 75) were also interviewed to gather dietary data and information on breast cancer risk factors.

When the statistics from the two groups were analyzed, researchers found a significant association between breast cancer risk and the highest carbohydrate intake. And that’s the information that made headlines. As usual the finer points get lost when the basic information is shoved out in the mainstream for quick consumption.

What the sound bites failed to mention was this important detail: “Among carbohydrate components, the strongest associations were observed for sucrose and fructose.”

So the elevated risk was actually associated with the highest intake of the worst type of carbs: refined simple carbohydrates (such as pastry, soft drinks, cookies, etc.). In fact, women who had the highest intake of insoluble fiber (such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains) had a slightly decreased risk of breast cancer.

The effects of a diet that contains large amounts of refined simple carbs can be devastating. In the e-Alert “Complex Made Simple” (6/23/04), HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., explained that refining removes nutrients required for the metabolism of the sugar. Without those nutrients, “Your body must draw from body stores of nutrients to metabolize the sugar. And draw it will. Once those stores are overtaxed, disease sets in, or at least undesirable symptoms that hit wherever your body’s weakest link happens to be. This removal of nutrients is the key to our demise, in my opinion.”

As we’ve observed before, carbohydrate consumption is not necessarily unhealthy, but keeping your intake of refined simple carbs to a minimum is one of the best health choices you can make.


“Carbohydrates and the Risk of Breast Cancer among Mexican Women” Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, Vol. 13, August 2004,
“Study Links High Carbohydrate Intake with Breast Cancer” Natural Products Industry Insider, 8/6/04,
“REAL Hope for MS: Simple Steps to Treat and Even Prevent This Dreaded Disease” William Campbell Douglass, M.D., Real Health Breakthroughs, March 2002,