OMG, Bagels Will Not Give You Cancer. Please Enjoy Your Bagel

Carbohydrates are the latest comfort food to be demonized on the Internet, following the publication this week of a new study linking high-glycemic diets to an increased risk of lung cancer. Some media outlets took that news and ran with it, one even going so far as to assert that bagels might be giving you lung cancer. (Really, Gothamist?)

We have good news: You can still eat your bagels. Here’s why.

Even if the study was flawless, the absolute lung cancer risk for nonsmokers is very small

The study, which was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, compared population data and diets from 1,900 people with lung cancer and 2,400 control subjects. The researchers found that people who consumed the greatest amount of high-glycemic foods — think refined carbs such as white bread, potatoes, and yes, bagels — were 49 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than the people who consumed the least amount of high-glycemic foods.

But here’s the catch: Your risk of getting lung cancer if you’ve never smoked is still extremely low.

Estimates for lung cancer incidence rates in nonsmokers vary, but for simplicity’s sake, we calculated the lifetime risk of developing lung cancer if you’ve never smoked to be roughly 2 percent. (The total incident rate for smokers and nonsmokers combined is 7 percent for women and 6 percent for men, according to the American Cancer Society.)

According to the new study, if you eat many more refined carbs than the general population, your risk could increase, but it would max out at around 4.5 percent — only a couple of percentage points more.

Slightly less scary, right?

“The associations between glycemic index and lung cancer were still relatively small, particularly when we think of the impact of other risk —> Read More