Researchers from the University of Minnesota correlated soft drink consumption with increased pancreatic cancer using the Singapore China Health Study (more than 60,000 people were followed over 14 years). The study showed a marked increase in pancreatic cancer with the consumption of sugary carbonated drinks. Survival rates for pancreatic cancer are abyssmal, so a diagnosis can seem like a death sentence, so any finding that points to possible approaches for prevention should be of interest to the medical community.
After spending years listening to Dr. Hugo Rodier and pharmacist Mike Ciell (on the perils of sugar), I have learned to respect the work of the pancreas. In truth, I didn't know where my pancreas was until I got into this line of work in the last decade.
You see, as a child of the 60's, I got to choose my science classes in high school. I opted for geology over biology or physiology classes and instead of dissecting things or learning anatomy, I went on field trips -- to dig for trilobites or grok geologic time from outcrops of rock in the desert. But I digress greatly.
The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes to break down foods (proteins, fats, carbohydrates) into smaller forms that allow for proper absorption of nutrients. The pancreas also produces essential hormones like insulin and glucagon, which most of my readers know are critical to regulating blood sugar levels. The Singapore China Health Study participants who drank on average five sugary soft drinks a week (thus adding burden to their pancreases) had an 87% increase in one of the deadliest of cancers, pancreatic cancer.
Breast cancer gets far more press, but pancreatic cancer, although more rare, causes almost as many cancer deaths each year. Just compare 2009 National Cancer Institute numbers:
Breast Cancer - 194,280 new cases and 40,610 deaths
Pancreatic Cancer - 42,470 new cases and 35,240 deaths
The difference in the ratios is quite staggering and might make you wonder how you can support your own hard-working pancreas.
Cutting out refined sugars is a good place to start (the Singapore China Health Study didn't find the same link to increased pancreatic cancer from fruit juices as with sugary sodas).
Eating a raw plant-based diet, which is enzyme-rich and alkalinizing (check out the Hippocrates Health Institute's program), and chewing your food carefully (your saliva has enzymes important to digestion) can support pancreas health.
Meanwhile, I am becoming more and more interested in how bodywork can also support healthy digestion and organ function.
Many who do abdominal massage techniques claim to increase organ health by increasing circulation to organs that have become constricted, thus allowing the release of accumulated metabolic waste and concomitant intake of healing nutrients.