Image of Anna Arthur, a professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois.
Consuming high amounts of carbohydrates and various forms of sugar during the year prior to treatment for head and neck cancer may increase patients’ risks of cancer recurrence and mortality, a new study reports.
However, eating moderate amounts of fats and starchy foods such as whole grains, potatoes and legumes after treatment could have protective benefits, reducing patients’ risks of disease recurrence and death, said lead author Anna E. Arthur, a professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois.
In the study, researchers tracked the pre- and post-treatment diets and health outcomes of more than 400 cancer patients. Participants were followed for an average of 26 months after they were first diagnosed and treated for squamous-cell carcinoma of the head or neck; all were patients of the University of Michigan Head and Neck Specialized Program of Research Excellence. The study was published recently in the International Journal of Cancer.
Participants’ typical intake of food, beverages and supplements was assessed for the year prior to diagnosis and for one year post-treatment using the Harvard Food Frequency Questionnaire. Patients who consumed the lowest amounts of simple carbohydrates – which included refined grains, desserts and sugar-sweetened beverages – consumed about 1.3 servings daily, compared with about 4.4 servings by patients who were considered high intake.
Patients who consumed the most total carbohydrates and sugars – in the forms of sucrose, fructose, lactose and maltose – in the year preceding cancer treatment were at greater risk of mortality from any cause during the follow-up period, Arthur said.