Research Trends: A Focus on Nutrition and the Diabetes-Cancer Connection

Dr. Maria Muccioli, Ph.D., holds degrees in Biochemistry and Molecular and Cell Biology, with over a decade of research experience. She is a biology professor at Stratford University and a science writer at Diabetes Daily and has been living well with type 1 diabetes since 2008.

In this recurring article series, Dr. Maria presents some snapshots of recent diabetes research, especially interesting studies and reviews that may fly under the mainstream media radar.


In Support of the Ketogenic Diet

A comprehensive literature review by expert obesity and nutrition researchers from Spain was recently published in Reviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders. The narrative suggests that overall, research on very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets points to favorable health outcomes for many patients with type 2 diabetes. Various health parameters, including weight loss and glycemic management, can be effectively improved when following a very low-carb approach. These outcomes are now supported by a sizable and growing body of peer-reviewed literature. Importantly, adverse health effects appear to be “of mild intensity and transient,” the experts summarized. Dr. Felipe Casanueva and his colleagues even went as far as to call this dietary approach a “potential game-changer in the management of type 2 diabetes.”

Diabetes and Cancer Risk

The complex interplay between diabetes and cancer continues to be investigated in the research world. At this year’s American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting, researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO reported on a link between type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer (CRC) risk. The scientists evaluated data from almost 6,000 patients with colorectal cancer and found that the cancer patients were significantly more likely to have type 2 diabetes as compared to the healthy control group. The association remained after adjusting for the potential confounding variables, with an increased odds ratio of 1.4 (7.2% of CRC patients also had type 2 diabetes as compared to only 4.3% of the controls).

Clinical Trial: Metformin in Cancer Treatment

A clinical trial at the University of Milan is investigating the utility of Metfomin in preventing high blood sugar in cancer patients treated with glucocorticoids. While high-dose steroids can be an effective treatment for many cancers, they often cause the undesirable side effect of increasing blood glucose levels. The trial will include over one hundred patients undergoing treatment for various types of cancer, including skin, lung, and breast cancers. The researchers hope that by mitigating the hyperglycemic effects of high-dose steroids used in treatment will improve patient outcomes.

Prenatal and Childhood Nutrition Affects Metabolic Disease Later in Life

A large literature review conducted by endocrinology experts in China examined how early nutritional patterns (before birth, i.e., mother’s diet and eating patterns during childhood) may affect metabolic disease, like type 2 diabetes, later in life. The review article was recently published in The Chinese Medical Journal. The key takeaways were as follows: 1) Both maternal “overnutrition and undernutrition” during pregnancy resulted in higher risk for metabolic disorders in their children; 2) These predispositions may be mitigated through specific nutritional patterns in early childhood. This is not surprising, as tissue plasticity is highest during early development, and so many predispositions may be affected by environmental factors. Some studies have pointed to the importance of “dietary bioactive compounds,” including resveratrol, and genistein, among others, in this process.


Please share your thoughts with us and stay tuned for more recent research updates!