High Blood Sugar and Insulin Resistance

Repeated high blood sugar levels can create imbalances leading to insulin resistance. Chronically high levels of blood sugar and insulin can create conditions favorable to cancer growth and spread.

High blood sugar and insulin resistance at a glance

High blood sugar (glucose) levels may come from eating foods with a high glycemic indexan indication of the ability of a food to raise blood sugar, in a value from zero (not at all) to 100 (pure glucose); high-GI foods are digested quickly and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream, while low-GI foods release glucose slowly and steadily into the bloodstream: sugary, high-calorie foods with little fiber. Too much sitting (sedentary) time, sleep disruption, unmanaged stress, and some medications, such as steroids, can also contribute to high blood sugar.

Repeated high blood sugar levels can create imbalances leading to insulin resistance, a condition in which cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well to insulin and can’t efficiently take up glucose from your blood for energy.

When cells don’t take in blood glucose due to insulin resistance, the pancreas produces more insulin, leading to insulin levels that are too high. Chronically high levels of blood sugar and insulin can create conditions favorable to cancer growth and spread and are markers of diabetes, which is a risk factor for several types of cancer.1Yin M, Zhou J, Gorak EJ, Quddus F. Metformin is associated with survival benefit in cancer patients with concurrent type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Oncologist. 2013 Dec;18(12):1248-1255.

Cancer types with modest or good evidence of a link to high blood sugar and insulin resistance:

Cancer as a whole

Brain cancer

Breast cancer

Colorectal cancer

Gynecological cancer

Head and neck cancers

Kidney cancer

Lung cancer

Ovarian cancer

Pancreatic cancer

Prostate cancer

Thyroid cancer

Top practices and therapies for managing high blood sugar and insulin resistance

These practices and therapies have at least a modest level of evidencesignificant effects in at least three small but well-designed randomized controlled trials (RCTs), or one or more well-designed, mid-sized clinical studies of reasonably good quality (RCTs or observational studies), or several small studies aggregated into a meta-analysis (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of benefit regarding managing high blood sugar and insulin resistance.

Therapies and practices we have reviewed

Further therapies

Additional therapies recommended in clinical practice guidelines; see guidelines ›

Aloe vera (oral)

Alpha-lipoic acid

A specific Ayurveda formulation of six herbs

Citrullus colocynthis

Coccinia cordifolia

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum)

Ginger

Gynostemma pentaphyllum

Hintonia latiflora

Lichen genus Cladonia BAFS “Yagel-Detox”

Marine collagen peptides

Milk thistle ›

Nettle

Omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid ›

Pterocarpus marsupium (vijayasar)

Salacia reticulata 

Scoparia dulcis porridge

Soybean-derived pinitol extract

Touchi soybean extract

Traditional Chinese medicine herbs:

  • Fructus mume
  • Gegen Qinlian Decoction (GQD)
  • Jianyutangkang (JYTK) with metformin
  • Jinlida with metformin
  • Sancaijiangtang
  • Shen-Qi-Formula (SQF) with insulin
  • Tang-Min-Ling-Wan (TM81)
  • Xiaoke (contains glyburide)
  • Zishentongluo (ZSTL)

Authors

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Reviewer

Dr. Fuller-Shavel is a GMC-registered integrative medicine doctor with degrees in medicine and natural sciences from the University of Cambridge. Dr. Fuller-Shavel is a fellow of the College of Medicine and the vice chair for BSIO (British Society for Integrative Oncology). Alongside her science and medical training, Dr. Fuller-Shavel holds multiple qualifications in nutrition, integrative medicine, health coaching, herbal medicine, yoga, mindfulness and other mind-body approaches.

Dr. Fuller-Shavel is the director of Synthesis Clinic, an award-winning multidisciplinary integrative medicine practice in Hampshire, UK, specializing in women’s health, gut health (microbiome and gut-brain axis) and mental health. She combines her clinical work in women’s health and supporting patients with breast and gynecological cancer with education and training for healthcare professionals and research in precision cancer medicine and precision nutrition.

Nina Fuller-Shavel, MB, BChir, MA Hons, FBANT, IFMCP, DipIM, PG Cert RYT300

Last update: January 10, 2024

Last full literature review: July 2022

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.

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