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Vitamin E
Vitamin B


 Breast Health Tip #21: Avoid Sugar 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Dr. Christine Horner's Natural Secrets for Breast Health by . View all columns in series

Over a period of time, eating too much sugar can create imbalances that lead to two more deadly diseases: obesity and diabetes. Both of these diseases dangerously increase your risk of breast cancer, and both have increased alarmingly in the United States in the past two decades. An estimated 60 percent of the adult population is overweight, and 5 percent have diabetes. Of those people who have diabetes, 90 percent are also overweight. Not only do these diseases increase your risk of breast cancer, but they also increase your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, poor circulation, stroke, and infection.

A study conducted by Harvard Medical School and published in 2004 found that women who ate foods with a high glycemic index (foods that cause blood sugars to soar, such as refined carbohydrates and sugars) as teenagers had a higher incidence of breast cancer later in life. So, encouraging your teenage daughter to cut back on sugar will help her to lower her risk of breast cancer for the rest of her life.

Now, the good news: If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll be relieved to know that you don't have to suffer. There’s a natural sweetener that tastes great, and better yet, research has shown that instead of being dangerous to your health, it actually has several wonderful health-supporting qualities. It's called Stevia, and it comes from the South American plant Stevia rebaudiana. What's interesting about this semi shrub, indigenous to Paraguay, is that every part of it tastes intensely sweet. The dried leaves, however, are the only parts that are used for medicinal and commercial purposes. Scientists have found that Stevia’s delightfully sweet flavor comes from a group of substances in it called "glycosidal diterpenes."

Compared to sugar, only very small amounts of Stevia are needed. That’s because Stevia is 300 times sweeter than sucrose, the type of sugar found in table sugar. Stevia hasn't yet been approved by the FDA as a food additive — write your senators and Congressional representatives! — so at this time you won't find it in any processed foods in the United States. In this country Stevia is considered a dietary supplement. Health food stores and national-chain grocery stores that specialize in organic foods, such as Wild Oats and Whole Foods, usually carry Stevia.

Stevia comes in multiple forms: a fine white powder, a green powder, or a liquid. I found that certain brands of Stevia can taste bitter or leave a weird aftertaste if you use too much. There’s one brand, however, that solved this problem by adding some fiber to it. It is called SteviaPlus by SweetLeaf.

Stevia can also be used in cooking, but it’s a little tricky. The amount you should use can vary a lot from brand to brand, so you definitely should use a Stevia cookbook. Many of the companies with Stevia products have their own cookbooks.

Stevia has been used for hundreds if not thousands of years by the native tribes in Paraguay and Brazil to treat high blood pressure and diabetes. Modern research has shown that it does help both conditions. Stevia causes blood vessels to dilate. When the diameter of a blood vessel increases, the blood pressure in it goes down. A double-blind placebo-controlled study was published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in the year 2000 documenting Stevia’s ability to lower blood pressure. Researchers found that after only three months, patients with high blood pressure who were given Stevia three times a day had a significant decrease in both their systolic (the upper number) and diastolic (the lower number) blood-pressure numbers.

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 About The Author
Christine Horner, MD is a board certified and nationally recognized surgeon, author, professional speaker and a relentless champion for women's health. She spearheaded legislation in the......moreChristine Horner MD, FACS
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