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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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February 26, 2008

Study Suggests Carbohydrate-Rich Diet, Obesity Linked to Esophageal Cancer Risk

By Worker Bee

A study slated for release in an upcoming edition of The American Journal of Gastroenterology suggests that rising esophageal cancer (adenocarcinoma) rates in the U.S. may be due to recent dietary trends that emphasize heavy carbohydrate consumption.

Although the cause of esophageal cancer has yet to be determined, previous studies have suggested that obesity is a risk factor for several types of cancer, including those affecting the thyroid, kidney, uterus colon, gall bladder and esophagus. However, this study is one of the first to suggest that carbohydrates, besides being a “common contributor to obesity,” may themselves correlate with esophageal cancer rates.

Using linear regression models, researchers from Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland determined that the recent uptick in esophageal cancer cases – which swelled from 300,000 cases in 1973 to 2.1 million cases in 2001 – correlated with “trends of increased carbohydrate intake and obesity” across the same time period. In one such model, the researchers determined that the trend was particularly significant among those who consumed a high percentage of calories from corn syrup (which, for the purpose of this study, represented refined carbohydrates) as well as among those who were obese.

Based on these findings, the researchers conclude that “high carbohydrate intake and obesity can account for at least some of the rise in esophageal adenocarcinoma,” but caution that further study is needed to confirm these trends.

Acknowledging that the current five-year rate of survival for esophageal cancer remains below 20 percent, the study’s lead author suggests that “if we can reverse the trends in refined carbohydrate intake and obesity in the U.S., we may be able to reduce the incidence of esophageal cancer.”

And there you have it, yet another (sound) study explaining the damaging effect of carbohydrates on the human body. But what do you suppose will be the fall out? Will this finally be the news America needs to change its diet or will it just be another evening news item that causes a stir but is all but forgotten come the morning? We don’t know about you, but we’re hedging our bets on the latter!

But how should this news impact you? Consider it a teaching point, a feather in the hat if you will, for advocating the Primal Health lifestyle to coworkers, colleagues, family and friends who can’t possibly understand why you can – and easily nonetheless – say no to the pizza buffer or forgo a mid-morning frappuccino run. Or, at the very least, consider it just another reason to keep on keepin’ on!

Further Reading:

Simple vs. Complex Carbs

Ten Awesome Carbs

Dr. Briffa: Why Carbs Can Turn Your Liver into Foie Gras

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10 Comments on "Study Suggests Carbohydrate-Rich Diet, Obesity Linked to Esophageal Cancer Risk"


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9 years 5 months ago
Man, it’s the Week of Gross Images in the blogosphere. First Fear and Loathing in the Kitchen and her (well, not really her) barbecued dog paws (, and now you and your cancerous esophagus. Isn’t there a link between esophageal cancer and GERD? Or is that somebody’s untested hypothesis, like so many other things that we are led to believe? There are a lot of anecdotes (including my own) about how people find their acid reflux clears up when they ditch sugar, grain, and potatoes. I have a whole list of things that cleared up much faster than would be… Read more »
9 years 5 months ago

Actually, when I said “glucose intolerance,” I meant “gluten intolerance.” But really, both could be causes of some nasty stuff in our poor ol’ bods.

Cindy Moore
9 years 5 months ago

“But what do you suppose will be the fall out?”

I can see the headlines now! “Obesity and high fat intake causes esophageal cancer!”

I’ll be surprised when the media starts to report what studies actually do find.

9 years 5 months ago

Cindy, you crack me up! And you’re so right!

9 years 5 months ago
carbohydrates – which translate to high blood sugars have several effects on key bodily defences and vulnerabilities. first, cancer cells live off glucose – that is their only source of food. A study carried out by Johns Hopkins researchers found evidence that some cancer cells are such incredible sugar junkies that they’ll self-destruct when deprived of glucose.[Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 1998; 95: 1511-1516] second, high blood glucose causes oxidative stress (Wikipedia: AGEs – The total state of oxidative and peroxidative stress on the healthy body, and the accumulation of AGE-related damage is proportional to the dietary… Read more »
9 years 5 months ago
My husband suffered for many years with GERD, took prescription antacids. After he was on antacids for so many years, insurance required that he have an upper GI endoscopy. Turns out he had damage to his esophagus, and a “pre-cancerous” condition known as Barrett’s Syndrome (basically, abnormal, damaged cells due to the constant acid). He had surgery to correct the hernia that was allowing the acid into his esophagus and his condition has not advanced. Weight has been an issue with him, and I have no evidence, but I think it had an effect on causing the hernia. Before we… Read more »
Robert K. Su, M.D.
8 years 10 months ago

I post a reading list of 1,163 articles for my upcoming book, Carbohydrates Can Kill, on the website, After you read some of the articles in the categories, you should understand that out nutritional recommendation has been so wrong and dangerous!. In stead of asking us to limit the amount of fat sand proteins, we must limit the amount of carbohydrates.

Robert Su, M.D.

Harry C
Harry C
4 years 9 months ago

I am a Barrett’s syndrome sufferer due to the constant GERD. My Dr. put me on Prilosec.

I have been primal for about 2 months now and stopped my prilosec for a couple of days when the heartburn returned.

I was wondering, will I ever be able to stop the prilosec without getting the Barrett’s hernia corrected even on primal?

I have been to 2 dr.s and they both say “stay on the prilosec, no need for surgery”.

4 years 2 months ago
Hi, I was wondering if this was every resolved? Were you able to get off of the prilosec? I was a GERD sufferer and was on Prilosec or similar drugs on and off. I then started having major intestinal problems and found out I had very low vitamin and nutrient levels. I first started going gluten free and felt better, but then wound up in the hospital with severe gastritis. After getting out, I did some research and found the SCD diet and a lot of information on low stomach acid (sounds ironic, doesn’t it?) Since I was unable to… Read more »