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Vitamin D cuts cancer risk

Published:Wednesday | May 5, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Charlyn Fargo, Contributor

In the largest study of its kind, researchers found that higher levels of vitamin D may be linked to lower colorectal cancer risk. Researchers looked at data from more than 500,000 participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) study. They found that people with the highest blood levels of vitamin D were up to 40 per cent less likely to develop colorectal cancer compared to those with the lowest levels.

Reported in the British Journal of Nutrition and highlighted in the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, the study compared the 1,248 EPIC participants diagnosed with colorectal cancer with an equal number of healthy controls.

Dietary calcium

The researchers also compared high and low blood levels of vitamin D to a midrange, which showed that low levels were associated with an increased risk of cancer, especially in the colon. The study also found reduced risk associated with high consumption of dietary calcium. Mazda Jenab of the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, led the EPIC researchers.

Jenab and colleagues found that vitamin D was effective in decreasing cell growth, inducing normal 'programmed cell death' and reducing the development of new blood vessels. They concluded that vitamin D and calcium may be as essential to cancer protection as they are to bone formation. Vitamin D is formed by the sun and is added to foods such as milk.

- Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, April 2010

Understanding the glycaemic index

Q: What is the glycaemic index of a multigrain English muffin? Each muffin has 100 calories, 22 g of carbs and 8 g of fibre. Can I lower the glycaemic load by adding a protein, such as a scrambled egg substitute?

A: The glycaemic index (GI) of a whole-grain English muffin is 45. The glycaemic load factors in the amount of food eaten when considering the glycaemic index. It's found by multiplying the food's GI by carbohydrate grams per serving, then dividing by 100. The glycaemic index is based solely on how one food (not a combination of foods) raises blood sugar over a period of time. But it's been criticised because we rarely eat one type of food at a time; we eat a combination, which changes the rate at which food items are absorbed.

So, there's no glycaemic load that can be calculated based on a combination of foods eaten with an English muffin. We do know that eating carbs with protein and fat helps slow digestion and, theoretically, keeps blood sugar more stable.

- Taste of Home Healthy Cooking

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.