Life Extension Magazine February 2013
Elevated Glucose Increases Incidence of Breast Cancer and Brain Shrinkage
By William Faloon, Luke Huber, ND, and Kira Schmid, ND
Breast cancer is the disease women fear most.1
Even though radiation emitted from mammograms causes some breast cancers, 39 million women undergo mammography2 each year in an attempt to detect tumors at an early, curable stage. The consensus is more lives are saved with mammograms than are killed by the radiation.3,4
In the United States, over 200,000 women are diagnosed with some form of breast cancer each year and around 40,000 die from it.5 This means that most victims’ lives are spared, but at the cost of surgical mutilation, radiation injury to the chest cavity, systemic damage by chemotherapy, and acute menopause by estrogen-blocking drugs.
With 12% of all American women destined to develop a breast tumor6, taking preventative steps make sense, especially if the same approach also slashes risk of dementia and heart attack…and helps shed fat pounds.
An abundance of published research links high-normal blood glucose levels to increased breast cancer risk.7-11 This article reviews the evidence and emphasizes the importance of maintaining glucose at safe low-normal ranges.
In response to reports showing higher rates of breast cancer amongst type II diabetics,12-16 Life Extension researchers conducted an analysis of the scientific literature to ascertain if there was a connection between higher “normal” blood glucose and breast cancer risk.
We identified 12 separate studies that examined blood glucose levels in relationship to incidence of breast cancer.12-23 Out of these 12 studies, 9 showed an association of higher fasting glucose or other indicators of poor glycemic control with increased cancer risks.7-11,17-19,22
The take-home message in examining these 12 independent studies is to initiate steps to lower glucose (which also reduces insulin) in order to help prevent the most prevalent malignancy striking women today.
While glucose provides fuel for rapidly dividing cancer cells, insulin is a hormonal stimulator for cellular proliferation.7,14 The role of elevated blood glucose and insulin on cancer incidence and progression is being increasingly recognized and was the subject of a recent report on the CBS news magazine show 60 Minutes.24
Life Extension®’s analysis of 12 independent studies identified strong data suggesting increased breast cancer risk amongst women with so-called “normal” blood glucose levels. For example, premenopausal women with a blood sugar above 84 mg/dL had more than two-times the risk of developing breast cancer compared to those with a blood sugar below 84 mg/dL.7 Another study compared women with a fasting glucose under 100 mg/dL with those whose blood glucose was between 100-125 mg/dL. Women with the higher glucose readings had a 23% increased risk of breast cancer after multivariate analysis.8
A study of 10,633 women from Italy found significant relationships between blood sugar levels and breast cancer risk.9 In this study, women in the highest glucose quartile (median 96 mg/dL) had a 63% increased risk for breast cancer compared to those in the lowest quartile (median 73 mg/dL) after being “fully adjusted” for multiple variables. The authors stated in the discussion:
“…we found that elevated fasting glucose levels were significantly associated with subsequent occurrence of breast cancer. The association was significant both in pre and postmenopausal women.”
Glucose: Our Modern Day Enemy
High-normal blood glucose is a leading cause of premature death overlooked bymainstream doctors today.
Not only do we eat too many starches and simple sugars, but our aging liver synthesizes too much glucose internally via a process known as gluconeogenesis.
More than 80% of the adult population has glucose levels that are too high.26 Most of these people are not diagnosed with diabetes, but just by having high-normal fasting glucose (over 85 mg/dL), risk of death from cardiovascular disease increases by 40% according to a long-term study conducted on close to 2,000 people.27
This and other studies show that even in otherwise healthy people, those with high-normal glucose are at increased risk of vascular death. For example, those with higher after-meal glucose (for example, 101 mg/dL compared to 83 mg/dL) had a 27% increased risk of death from stroke.28
A large body of published scientific research documents that people with higher after-meal glucose spikes have sharply increased risks for most of the diseases we associate with aging such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, kidney failure, retinal damage, and vascular blockages.29-42
Chart 1 on this page shows the horrific consequences when glucose levels are elevated above optimal ranges. (We classify optimal fasting glucose in aging humans as under 86 mg/dL).
High Normal Blood Sugar Harms Brain
In September 2012, Australian researchers published findings showing blood glucose at the high end of normal resulted in significant brain shrinkage.47,48
The shrinkage occurred in regions of the brain (hippocampus and amygdala) involved in memory and other critical functions. Atrophy (shrinkage) in these brain areas worsens memory.47,48
For this study, neuroscientists at Australian National University in Canberra studied 249 people in their early 60s. Each of them had blood sugar levels in the normal range. The study subjects’ brains were scanned at the beginning of the study, and again four years later.
Comparing the before and after images, the researchers found significant brain shrinkage among those whose blood sugar levels were high but still below the World Health Organization's threshold for pre-diabetes (fasting glucose under 110 mg/dL). The researchers report that these high normal levels may account for a 6% to 10% decrease in the volume of the hippocampus and amygdala.
The lead researcher stated, “It is this chronic exposure to high glucose levels that is more likely to lead to poorer brain health.” He cautioned that these findings should not be taken "lightly," as the association between high normal blood sugar and brain shrinkage was "robust."47,48
What Should People Do To Reduce Their Blood Glucose Level?
Reducing ingestion of simple sugars and starches helps, but as people age, most of them produce excess glucose in their liver (gluconeogenesis) that causes higher glucose levels no matter how many carbohydrates they restrict.
The key is to inhibit intestinal absorption of carbohydrates, suppress excess production of glucose in the liver, and improve glucose utilization in tissues through enhanced insulin sensitivity.
Proven Methods To Lower Blood Glucose
Severely restricting calorie consumption will sharply lower glucose and insulin.50,51 Life Extension has published articles over the years about the glucose-insulin lowering impact effects of following low calorie diets.52-54 Few people, however, can adhere to this strict regimen. At a minimum, reducing the amount of starches and simple sugars in the diet will help reduce blood glucose.
More people are asking their doctors to prescribe an anti-diabetic drug called metformin to be taken before most meals, even if they are not medically classified as diabetic. Metformin functions via several mechanisms to lower blood glucose levels including impeding excess production of glucose in the liver (gluconeogenesis) and improving insulin sensitivity.55
While metformin has incredible health benefits for non-diabetics, most doctors won’t prescribe it to healthy people. The good news is that standardized green coffee bean extract works in similar ways as metformin and can be obtained without a prescription. A number of published studies show that green coffee extract lowers after-meal glucose surges to ultra-safe ranges that have been shown to protect against heart attack. One study showed that standardized green coffee extract reduced after-meal glucose by 32%!56
Ensuring adequate intake of nutrients like chromium,57 lipoic acid58, and green tea extract59-63 improves insulin sensitivity, as does ensuring that you maintain youthful blood levels of hormones like DHEA.64-65
Heavy Coffee Drinkers Benefit
If one drinks lots of black coffee before meals, they can lower their blood sugar levels and reduce their risk of diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. A study that received a lot of publicity showed that people who drink 12 cups of coffee daily lower their diabetes risk by 67%. Since heart attack is the leading killer of diabetics, preventing diabetes also prevents heart attack.66
The problem is that heavily roasted coffee destroys the primary ingredient (chlorogenic acid) thought to protect against disease--which is why it takes so much coffee to produce a substantive effect. Most people find it easier to take a standardized green coffee extract capsule before each meal to help protect against high blood glucose levels, or drink chlorogenic-fortified coffee.
Why Aren’t Doctors Taking Steps To Lower Blood Glucose Levels?
Doctors rely on outdated reference ranges, meaning they accept dangerously high glucose levels as being normal. Yet more than 80% of the adult population has glucose levels that put them at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, and cancer.26,67-69 The bottom line is that doctors are not lowering their patient’s glucose levels enough to prevent these needless diseases.
As tens of millions of Americans become “newly insured” because of the Affordable Care Act, doctors will have less time to scrutinize their patients’ glucose levels.
To put it bluntly, while demand for health care will skyrocket because of the federal government’s new mandate for virtually everyone to have health insurance, there is no corresponding increase in the supply of doctors. So expect delays in getting appointments, long waits at medical offices, and even less individual attention paid to you by physicians.
Taking Charge of Your Blood Glucose
For more than 30 years, the Life Extension Foundation® has advocated members keep their fasting glucose in low normal ranges, and an abundance of peer-reviewed published research findings validates this long-standing position.27,70-90
A priority at Life Extension is to review member’s blood test results and recommend aggressive steps to get glucose levels to the ultra-safe low ranges that published studies show protects against heart attack and other common diseases.26-27,91
What you do to achieve optimal fasting glucose of less than 86 mg/dL is less important than what your blood test results reveal.
If your last blood test showed fasting glucose of 86 mg/dL or higher, cut back on carbs, take 350 mg of green coffee extract before each meal, and initiate other proven strategies to suppress glucose absorption, inhibit gluconeogenesis, and improve insulin sensitivity.
High-normal blood glucose is a leading cause of premature death overlooked by mainstream doctors today. More than 80% of the adult population has glucose levels that are too high. An abundance of published research links high-normal blood glucose levels to increased breast cancer risk. New research links even high normal blood sugar levels to brain shrinkage in key areas involved with memory. Reducing ingestion of simple sugars and starches helps, but as people age, most of them produce excess glucose in their liver (gluconeogenesis) that causes higher glucose levels no matter how many carbohydrates they restrict. The key is to inhibit intestinal absorption of carbohydrates, suppress excess production of glucose in the liver, and improve glucose utilization in tissues through enhanced insulin sensitivity. A number of published studies show that green coffee extract lowers after-meal glucose surges to ultra-safe ranges and nutrients like chromium, lipoic acid, and green tea extract all work to support healthy insulin sensitivity that can slash the risk for most of the diseases we associate with aging such as heart attack, cancer, Alzheimer’s, kidney failure, retinal damage and vascular blockages.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.
In he next page are scientific summaries of the 12 studies evaluated by life Extension, 9 of which strongly associate higher than optimal blood glucose with increased breast cancer risk.