The role of sugar in the formation, growth and metastasis of cancer cells is a topic that has often divided the scientific community. While the Canadian Cancer Society explicitly states that eating sugar does not make cancer cells grow faster, other trustworthy sources disagree and claim just the opposite.
A recent research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation now provides experimental evidence that suggest the anti-sugar camp was right all along.
The Warburg Effect
The so called Warburg effect describes how most cancer cells produce energy through aerobic glycolysis, which means that they metabolize sugar. Normal tissue has very low glycolitic rates; about 200 times lower than the fast growing cancer cells.
The process was named after Otto Warburg, who was the first to hypothesize that this change in metabolism is the fundamental cause of cancer.
Even if Warburg’s theory received a lot of publicity when it was published and even won him a Nobel Prize, it was later sidetracked. Most of the current literature views the shift to aerobic glycolysis as a result of cancer, rather than its cause. But new research brings the Warburg effect back to the center of cancer research.
Sugar and Cancer – the New Research
A scientific study published in the medical journal, Science, confirmed that increased sugar intake promotes cancer development or oncogenesis.
The research team showed that increased glycolytic activation caused over expression of glucose transporter type 3 (GLUT3) in non-malignant human breast cells.
This resulted in the activation of known oncogenic signaling pathways. When malignant cells received less glucose, this promoted the formation of organized structures that didn’t grow as rapidly, and suppressed oncogenic pathways.
In other words, if sugar was less available, the cancer cells reversed towards their pre-cancer structure. Researchers used a 3D culture model and showed that glucose uptake levels determined whether breast cancer cells formed colonies with malignant or non-malignant behavior.
These new scientific findings further increase the credibility of methods that use nutrition to prevent and treat cancer.
The ketogenic diet, which cuts sugars/carbohydrates and focuses on healthy fats and protein, has been found very useful even in the treatment of the most aggressive of cancers. A scientific study concluded that the ketogenic diet appears to be a promising and powerful option for adjuvant therapy for a range of cancers.
You can also read my other article about the top foods that protect against cancer development.
How the findings are put to practice in cancer diagnostics
Even if the role of sugar in cancer formation has been previously disputed, Warburg’s findings have been put to practice in cancer diagnostics.
PET scans use radioactively labeled glucose to detect sugar-hungry tumor cells. Also, in Europe oncologists (cancer doctors) often use the Systemic Cancer Multistep Therapy (SCMT) protocol, which involves injecting patients with glucose to increase blood-glucose concentrations. This then causes the rapid growth of tumor, so it’s easier to target it with chemotherapy and radiation.
Other Reasons to Minimize Sugar Consumption
1. One of the most obvious reasons is that sugar is very calorific, but not very filling. Hence people tend to over-consume sugar.
2. Sugar suppresses the immune system – if you regularly eat sugary foods and drinks throughout the day, then you are stopping your immune system from working properly.
3. Sugar causes inflammation – this causes pain and can lead to diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
4. Sugar can cause tooth decay.
5. Sugar reduces the release of the human growth hormone, which accelerates the aging process.
Why Sugar Is Poison According to Physician Author Dr. Robert Lustig
Dr. Robert Lustig is an endocrinologist with a vision. He is the author of a book Fat Chance: The Hidden Truth About Sugar, Obesity and Disease, in which he declared a war on sugar. According to Dr. Lustig, sugar should reach the enemy status of tobacco, and legislation needs to be put in place to prevent companies from making money by causing a serious deterioration in the population’s health.
Dr. Lustig calls sugar addiction a metabolic syndrome. Obesity is considered to be its symptom. People focus on losing weight, when in fact they should tackle the underlying issue of hormonal imbalance caused by high sugar consumption. The connection between hormonal imbalance and fat is not new, and you can read more about it in my previous article which talks about hormone resetting.
In addition, a scientific study found that obesity is a major risk factor for cancer.
In his book, Dr. Lustig explains that when there is too much insulin in the blood – which happens when you constantly eat sugary food – the hormone leptin gets blocked. Leptin is the hormone that regulates the amount of fat stored in the body. When its levels decrease, the brain doesn’t recognize excess weight anymore, and the self-regulatory mechanism breaks down. You keep eating until you burst. Fighting cravings becomes as hard as trying to suppress the urge to drink when you feel thirsty.
According to Lustig, sugar is an independent primary-risk factor for all sort of disease. It’s not just about the calories and weight gain; it’s about what it does to the physiology of our bodies. That is why diets work for two months, maybe six, and then people re-gain the weight they’ve just lost.
Biochemistry drives our behavior and it’s shocking to see how some people act when they start missing their sugar. The scenes are not much different from addicts looking for a way to get drugs. The claim is that sugar is creating a society of zombies, and it should be treated in the same way other drugs are.
World sugar consumption has tripled in the past 50 years, and obesity is a global problem, affecting both the developed and developing world. The situation has worsened over the past 30 years. Dr. Lustig thinks it’s not about the lack of knowledge. Everybody is aware that vegetables are good for you. But more needs to be done to stop the corporations’ greediness, or our society will decline and perish.
How to Reduce your Sugar Consumption
Reducing the amount of refined sugar is one of the 70 habits featured in my e-book 70 Powerful Habits For A Great Health which will guide you how to take positive steps to improve your wellness and overall health.
An average American consumes 160 lbs (72 kilograms) of sugar annually, and this includes ‘hidden sugars’ that are found in refined grain products, such as pasta, bread and crackers.
Cancer is a complex phenomenon, and there are many reasons that contribute to its formation. However, if you are concerned about cancer, removing sugar and excess simple carbohydrates seems to be a step in the right direction.
You can find more information about 13 effective ways to quit sugar, and also read my previous article about the top 5 cancer causing foods to avoid.