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A High-Insulin Diet and Colorectal Cancer

Karen Alexander, Licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

March 11, 2020

Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2020 there will be an estimated 43,000 new cases of rectal cancer diagnosed in the United States.  A study published in JAMA Oncology reviewed how Stage III colon cancer patients who followed the American Cancer Society’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Survivors upon diagnosis had improved survival.

A group of researchers published an article that links diets high in insulin load to stage III colon cancer recurrence and survival. Researchers performed a study of 1,023 patients with resected stage III colon cancer enrolled in an adjuvant chemotherapy trial. These patients completed questionnaires focused on dietary and lifestyle habits four months after surgery and six months after completion of adjuvant chemotherapy. Researchers calculated the dietary insulin load (DIL), which is the level of insulin produced by the body in response to food. The results showed that patients who consumed a high-insulin diet were at a higher risk of cancer recurrence and mortality.

One would expect that eating healthy could have a protective effect and would reduce the damage done to the body by eating foods that generate a high insulin load. However, scientists found that the insulin effect occurs regardless of whether or not the patient is consuming a healthy or a not so healthy diet. Scientists also found that patients who were obese and had a high insulin load due to their eating habits had worse consequences, such as a rapid recurrence of colon cancer, the presence of new colon cancer, or higher overall mortality rate.

If you want to lower your risk of developing cancer, aim for a diet high in non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, legumes, nuts, some fruits, and good fats. Also, limit your consumption of fruit juices, sweet beverages, white flours, sugar, and sweet treats.

The recipe of the week is courtesy of Native Sun: Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Muffins


  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cup vegetable broth
  • coconut oil for greasing pan
  • 2 cup finely chopped broccoli
  • 1/3 cup instant oats
  • 1/4 nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup crumbled or shredded cheese
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste


1. Rinse the quinoa with a fine mesh strainer and add to a medium stockpot with vegetable broth.
2. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover for 15 minutes.
3. Remove from heat, keep covered for 10 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
5. Grease a baking sheet with coconut oil and add broccoli. Bake for 15 minutes.
6. Add the cooked quinoa (saving the rest for another use), broccoli, oats, nutritional yeast, cheese, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to a large bowl.
7. Grease a 6-muffin tin with coconut oil and evenly distribute quinoa mixture between cups.
8. Bake in 400 degrees F oven for 20 minutes until golden brown.
9. Remove from baking pan when muffins have cooled by running a knife around the edge of each muffin.
10. Place a large plate or small baking sheet on top of the muffin tin and flip so that muffins are upside down and will slide out of the tin.

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