Halloween and the holiday season are approaching. That means lots of candy for some, a lot of desserts, chocolate, and sweets for others. Though most of us are concerned about our waistlines during this time of year, your weight should be the least of your worries. High refined sugar intake has always had a strong correlation to tumor development in cancer patients, but now there is evidence suggests that a high sugar diet can actually cause cancer.
How Sugar Feeds Cancer Cells
Cancer cells uptake sugar at 10-12 times the rate of healthy cells. The Positron Emission Tomography is one of the most accurate tools for measuring cancer growth. The 1931 Nobel laureate in medicine, German Otto Warburg developed a hypothesis that cancer cells have a different energy metabolism compared to healthy cells. Malignant tumors, according to Warburg, exhibit increased glycolysis in contrast to healthy human cells. (1)
How Sugar Produces Cancer Cells
The 2013-2014 Journal of Clinic Investigation released the results of an in vitro study that analyzed the results of increased sugar uptake and oncogenesis (cancer creation). The results demonstrated that increased glucose uptake had a direct and positive correlation to the early phases of cancer cell production. (1)
Moreover, a 1985 study on sugar and the risk of large bowel cancer found that patients with high intakes of sugar were more predisposed to the development of cancer than patients with lower intakes of sugar. A prospective study published in 2006 found that high consumption of sugar and high-sugar foods were linked to a greater risk of pancreatic cancer (2), and a different study showed similar results for breast cancer patients. (3)
One of the crucial mechanisms through which cancer is promoted through sugar is through mitochondrial dysfunction. Sugar burns very differently than fat does, which generates free radicals. When free radicals damage the mitochondria of the cell, the nuclear DNA, and cell membrane are also affected, leading to protein impairment. (4)
Cancer is essentially caused by the replication of genetically mutated cells. Mitosis is the means through which cells divide and promote tissue growth. When the process of apoptosis (cell death) begins to break down, cancer occurs.
Obesity and chronic overeating have had a positive correlation and causation to the growth and development of cancer cells. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, being obese can cause changes in hormone levels, such as sex hormones or insulin, which increase the risk of developing breast, colon or uterine cancer. (5)
But don’t give fruit the boot!
The study takes into account the difference between refined sugar and naturally occurring sugars. Refined sugars include table sugar and high fructose corn syrup that are absorbed by the body when consuming processed foods, sodas, and baked desserts, namely added sugar. Naturally occurring sugars in fruits are deemed less harmful, regardless of their glycemic index. (1)
Dr. Tony Jimenez hypothesizes that sugar from organic produce may not contribute to cancer cell growth in the same way refined sugars do because human cells absorb left-spinning molecules, which occur in fruits and vegetables, while cancer cells can only absorb right spinning particles, which come from refined sugar. (2)
What You Should Do
Sugar has been related to a multitude of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, immobility, elevated triglycerides and high blood pressure. Cutting out refined sugars from soda and processed foods is a good start to decreasing your risk of cancer cell growth, as well as those other conditions.
Consume your daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Ensure you are getting enough fiber, iron, and protein in your diet. Do not drink fruit juices that have added sugar, and use natural sweeteners such as honey or stevia, and avoid high-fructose corn syrup and genetically modified sugar or sugar replacement such as aspartame.
Eat the right amount of sugar: for women, have no more than six teaspoons (25 grams) of sugar each day, for men, have no more than nine teaspoons per day (37 grams); this equals to 100 calories for women and 150 for men. The majority of people in America eat over double that amount, averaging at around 22 teaspoons per day. (7)
Hidden sugars: fructose, lactose, sucrose, maltose, glucose, and dextrose are all forms of sugar you can find on the Nutritional Facts label on the back of your next meal.
Other natural sugars: Molasses, agave nectar, honey and maple syrup are natural sugars and contain antioxidants that can protect your body from cancer. But consume these in moderation, as they contain the same amount of calories as any other kind of sweetener. (6)
- Onodera, Y., Nam, J., & Bissell, M. J. (2014, January 02). Increased sugar uptake promotes oncogenesis via EPAC/RAP1 and O-GlcNAc pathways. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 124(1), 367-384. doi:10.1172/jci63146
Larsson, S. C., Bergkvist, L., & Wolk, A. (2006, June 12). Consumption of sugar and sugar-sweetened foods and the risk of pancreatic cancer in a prospective study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 84(5), 1171-1176.