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Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer- The Link

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body does not make or properly use a pancreatic hormone called insulin. Insulin helps our body to utilize glucose (sugar) efficiently. In the case of diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the body goes into insulin resistance.

Diabetes can lead to major health problems, such as  raised blood pressure, kidney disease and neuropathy.

How does diabetes relate to pancreatic cancer?

Diabetes can either be a risk factor or a symptom to pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is more likely to occur in people who have long-standing diabetes than those who do not have diabetes.

Research suggest that onset of diabetes in people over age of 50 may be an early symptom of pancreatic cancer. A sudden change in the blood sugar levels of diabetics who previously had controlled diabetes may also be a sign of pancreatic cancer.

What foods may help control diabetes?

Foods is divided into five main groups:

  • Non starchy vegetables like broccoli, carrots, greens and tomatoes.
  • Starchy vegetables like green potatoes and corn.
  • Fruits
  • More than half of your grains should be whole grains
  • Including nuts and seeds like Sunflower and Pumpkin seeds are a healthy choice.

Some superfoods for diabetes are:

  • Avocados: Avocados have healthy fat. Avocados have roughly about 20 types of vitamins and minerals. Consuming healthy fats keep you full longer.
  • Walnuts:  Walnuts should be your supreme choice as it combines proteins, fibre and healthy fats. Switch your packet of wafers with this and reduce your risk of heart diseases and diabetes.
  • Seeds like Pumpkin: Pumpkin seeds is high in good fatty acid. Lack of magnesium leads to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is the leading cause of diabetes. Pumpkin seeds can be added to salads as dressing or just consumed as a handful.
  • Chia Seeds: Chia seeds has been trending in general for people of all ages at the moment. Chia seeds is rich in antioxidants, fibre, iron and calcium. 1 ounce chia seeds = 10g fibre.  You can sprinkle this on top of your salad or dessert and achieve that extra crunch.
  • Ginger: Ginger is anti-inflammatory and can help reduce the risk of diabetes and long term complications. Ginger is known to reduce fasting blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics. You can add ginger to your tea.
  • Cinnamon: Cinnamon helps lower blood sugar levels. You can add cinnamon to roasted carrots, or your sweet potatoes. You can even sprinkle some over your tea or milk.

Should diabetics with pancreatic cancer avoid eating all sugar?

Not necessarily unless as advised by your dietitian. Cutting all forms of sugar from your diet will not result in the death of cancer cells because cancer cells can’t be starved. Glucose is the basic food source for our cells, including cancer cells. For persons with cancer, metabolic changes can cause the body to break down body fat to make energy for both cancer cells and healthy cells.  It may be necessary to avoid foods that are high in simple sugars for individuals who experience problems with watery diarrhea after eating such food items.

Consult your doctor.

If you have pancreatic cancer and diabetes, consider consulting a registered dietitian/ doctor who can understand both these conditions.

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