Obesity = Cancer?

Did you know obesity can lead to cancer?  We've known that for a long time now but recent studies have found obesity "strongly linked with cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, pancreatic cancer and post-menopausal breast cancer," according to Fox News. One study estimates that if current trends continue, obesity will lead to approximately 500,000 additional cases of cancer by 2030.

Here's the deal.  One NYU Steinhardt researcher may have put her finger on an underlying biological mechanism responsible for the obesity-cancer link, Fox News reports. "In a large population-based study, nutritional epidemiologist Niyati Parekh found that disturbances in body insulin and glucose levels were associated with obesity-related cancers."

But there is some good news.  It's a finding that could lead to better treatments and management of cancer and heart disease and other diseases connected to obesity.

“I knew there were a lot of underlying nutritional factors that could either prevent the recurrence of cancer or prevent cancer in general,” Parekh, an assistant professor within NYU Steinhardt’s department of nutrition, food studies and public health, told FoxNews.com. “Obesity is a very big problem in the United States."

In her study, Parekh was able to analyze the diets, medical issues, blood and physical history of about 4,600 participants. Parekh found an increased risk of obesity-related cancers among people "with disturbances in their body insulin and glucose, conditions primarily associated with diabetes and pre-diabetes. The risk was even greater for individuals who had longer exposure to these disturbances prior to their cancers," Fox News rephrases her study.

“Obese people are more likely to have (abnormal) insulin levels in their blood,” Parekh told Fox News. “Insulin is the gatekeeper for glucose entering the cells, so when insulin production is disrupted, glucose remains in the blood…And an increase of glucose in the blood creates an environment that is conducive for cancer cells to grow quickly.”

Here is something I didn't know.  Many of our cells use glucose to do their jobs, and cancer cells also use the sugar to replicate quickly.  It makes sense. Higher amounts of glucose in the blood stream may help provide a direct line of fuel for cancer cells to grow and spread. Even scarier, higher rates of insulin can also "help to foster the spread of cancer, as insulin is a hormone known for encouraging cell growth."

“Insulin dictates many signaling pathways, and it has the ability to turn on and turn off genes,” Fox News quotes Parekh. “The pathways are stimulated to encourage cell growth, proliferation, and (metastasis)."

Throw out those M&Ms now.

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