The Diabetes Double Whammy

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

If you’re one of the 19 million Americans with diabetes, you know the disease can bring on some pretty scary consequences. Because your body can’t properly control blood sugar, diabetes can leave you at greater risk of heart disease as well as losing limbs, eyesight and kidney function.

But here’s something you may not know: If you’ve got diabetes, you also have a greater chance of developing cancer.

That’s according to a large study that examined the records of more than 125,000 people in Sweden who had been hospitalized for complications of type 2 diabetes. Among the participants, 24 different types of cancer were found.1

Other studies have shown that risk increases the most for cancers of the pancreas and liver. In addition, having diabetes doubles the risk for cancers of the esophagus, kidney, nervous system, small intestine and thyroid.

But besides increasing risk, diabetes also appears to make cancer more difficult to control once it develops.2

So what’s behind this link between diabetes and cancer?

A lot of scientists think it just might be tied to the obesity epidemic. After all, obesity boosts the risk of insulin resistance—a precursor to diabetes. Insulin resistance forces the pancreas to create more insulin in order to keep blood sugar under control. And more insulin may stimulate cancer cell growth.3

Obesity and insulin resistance also encourage low-level inflammation. More and more evidence points to inflammation as a key factor in cancer.

Losing weight is the first line of defense against diabetes.

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Just losing 5% to 10% of your body weight can help prevent diabetes. And if you already have the condition, losing 5% to 10% help keep it under control. Here are a few easy ways to kickstart your loss:

  • Practice portion control.
  • Avoid processed foods whenever possible.
  • Add more lean or non-meat protein. Studies show that a high protein, low (refined) carb diet can benefit people with diabetes.
  • Load up on fresh fruits and vegetables. Research shows that veggies like spinach can slash the risk of diabetes by about 15%.4
  • Sneak in some exercise whenever you can. Park at the far end of the parking lot, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and put a treadmill in front of the TV.

Specific nutrients can also fight diabetes. Here is my “go-to” list of essential supplements for my patients at risk or suffering from diabetes:

Beta-Glucan. A type of soluble fiber that keeps sugars in the intestines from being absorbed too rapidly. Take 5 grams per day.

Fish Oil. May activate genes that help regulate blood sugar levels. Take 3,000 IU daily.

Gymnema. An herb that raises insulin levels and normalizes blood sugar. Take 800 mg of an herbal extract standardized for 25% gymnemic acids each day.

Magnesium. Insulin depends on magnesium to function properly and supplements can increase insulin sensitivity. Take 400 mg daily.

It’s becoming increasingly clear to me the risk for diabetes means you’re at an additional risk for cancer as well. That makes avoiding diabetes doubly important.


  1. Hemminki K. Risk of cancer following hospitalization for type 2 diabetes. The Oncologist. 2010;15: 548-555.
  2. Peairs K. Diabetes Mellitus and Breast Cancer Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2011;29:40-46.
  3. Safarinejad MR. Relationship of insulin-like growth factor (IGF) binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) gene polymorphism with the susceptibility to development of prostate cancer and influence on serum levels of IGF-I, and IGFBP-3. Growth Hormone IGF Research. 2011 Apr 30. [Epub ahead of print]
  4. Carter P. Fruit and vegetable intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2010;341:c4229.