Can Starch Harm Your Health?

A study presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Conference in December confirmed that increasing the amount of starch in one’s diet, especially during the year following your diagnosis and treatment, can greatly increase the risk that breast cancer will recur in women who've been diagnosed previously.

It's interesting to note that the researchers did not find that carbohydrates in general were the culprit; instead, they isolated the troublemakers as being starchy foods specifically.

What are starches?

Starches are the most common source of carbohydrates in the human diet. One serving of starch contains 15 grams of carbohydrate and 80 calories.
Major sources of starch are cereals such as rice, wheat, and maize; root vegetables like potatoes (white and sweet) and yams; and many kinds of beans, such as favas, lentils, mung beans, peas, and chickpeas. Other starchy foods include bananas, barley, buckwheat, millet, oats, sorghum, rye.

And, as I'm sure you can now figure out from what's been said above, prepared foods containing starch include things like breads, pancakes, cereals, noodles, pasta, and tortillas.

When is eating starch the riskiest for survivors?

Starchy foods apparently exert their greatest influence on a woman's risk of recurrence during her first year after diagnosis and treatment. The researchers at the Breast Cancer Conference looked at changes in the study participants' starch intake during this 1-year period. The women who cut back on their starch intake the most during 1 year had a 9.7-percent risk of their breast cancer recurring. Those who increased their starch intake the most during the year had a 14.2 percent risk of another event. That's quite a difference!

For more information, go to the website of the American Association for Cancer Research

A little more about starchy foods. . .

In case some of you want to know a bit more about this subject, here's a list from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute that shows some equivalencies between starchy foods. The NHLB based this list on exchange lists from the American Dietetic Association.

One serving of starch is equivalent to

  • 1 slice bread (white, pumpernickel, whole wheat, rye)
  • 2 slices reduced-calorie or "lite" bread
  • 1/4 (1 oz.) bagel (varies)
  • 1/2 English muffin
  • 1/2 Hamburger bun
  • 3/4 C cold cereal
  • 1?3 C rice, brown or white, cooked
  • 1?3 C barley or couscous, cooked
  • 1?3 C legumes (dried beans, peas or lentils), cooked
  • 1/2 C pasta, cooked
  • 1/2 C bulgar wheat, cooked
  • 1/2 C corn, sweet potato, or green peas
  • 3 oz. baked sweet or white potato
  • 3/4 oz. pretzels
  • 3 C popcorn, hot-air popped or microwaved (80 percent light)

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