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
Head and neck cancers
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
Additional therapies recommended in clinical practice guidelines; see guidelines ›
Aloe vera (oral)
A specific Ayurveda formulation of six herbs
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum)
Lichen genus Cladonia BAFS “Yagel-Detox”
Marine collagen peptides
Pterocarpus marsupium (vijayasar)
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
- Shen-Qi-Formula (SQF) with insulin
- Tang-Min-Ling-Wan (TM81)
- Xiaoke (contains glyburide)
- Zishentongluo (ZSTL)