Where Did The Idea That Sugar Causes Cancer Come From
When we eat food containing carbohydrates, including foods that contain sugar, our body breaks it down into glucose. That glucose then fuels our cells to make the energy we need to survive. This process is called metabolism.
Normal cells and cancer cells both use glucose for energy. Scientists know that cancer cells metabolize glucose faster than normal cells. Its part of something called the Warburg Effect, named after the German scientist Otto Warburg, who studied cancer in the early 20th century.
The Warburg Effect even has a practical application in diagnosing cancer. In an imaging test called a positron emission tomography scan, doctors inject radioactive glucose into the bloodstream. Since cancer cells metabolize glucose at a faster rate, the PET scan lights up the location of cancer cells and tumors in your body. Doctors can use the image to find cancer or evaluate how well cancer treatments are working.
Today, some scientists are working on treatments to destroy cancer cells by starving them of glucose. They hope to alter genes that affect the cancer cells metabolism or develop drugs that would target cancer cells metabolism.
Q: Will Eating Sugar Cause Cancer Or Make My Cancer Worse
A: You may have heard of the phrase sugar feeds cancer.
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This concept might have lead you to wonder if you should stop eating sugar for fear of feeding cancer growth or fear of developing cancer in the future.
Research supports the notion that cancer cells consume more sugar than normal cells, but there is no conclusive evidence proving that eating sugar will make cancer grow or spread more quickly or that cutting out sugar will prevent it.
However, that doesnt mean that a high-sugar diet is healthy for you. Eating too many calories from sugar has been linked to weight gain, obesity and diabetes, which are all risk factors for the development of cancer.
All cells in our bodies, including cancer cells, need sugar for energy. Our bodies have several back-up strategies to keep blood sugar levels normal. Even without eating carbohydrates, your body will make sugar from other sources, including protein and fat.
During cancer treatment and recovery, our bodies need energy. If youre restricting your diet under the assumption that youre helping, you may, in fact, be depriving yourself of sources of energy that you need to fight cancer.
Does Sugar Feed Breast Cancer Cells
All the cells in our body need energy to grow and survive. Cancer cells usually grow quickly and so need lots of energy. This energy comes from several sources including glucose . Glucose comes from sugary foods in our diet but also from foods containing carbohydrates, such as pasta or bread, which our bodies convert into glucose.
This may make it seem possible that if you had no sugar in your diet it could help stop cancer developing or growing. But all our other cells also need glucose to survive, and theres no way of letting just the healthy cells get the amount of glucose they need and starving the cancer cells.
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What To Watch For
It can be tough to track down all the sugar you eat. Itâs hidden in things youâd never expect, like soups, salad dressings, peanut butter, yogurt, ketchup, instant oatmeal, nut milks, and hot dogs.
And often, itâs not even called sugar on the label.
There are more than 60 names for added sugar. Some, like maltose, dextrose and glucose, end in âose.â Also watch for:
- Fruit nectar
- Corn, rice, and maple syrups
Do Artificial Sweeteners Cause Cancer
You may have heard that artificial sweeteners are the culprit for the increased incidence of cancer in the United States. However, according to the National Cancer Institute, the scientific evidence is unclear whether these sugar-free sweeteners cause cancer. It is recommended that people limit the amount of artificial sweeteners they consume by practicing moderation.
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What Is The Link Between Insulin And Cancer
- Insulin stimulates cell growth, through the interaction with Insulin specific receptors.
- It is known that cancer cells have many more insulin receptors than normal healthy cells . If you have an environment high in sugar where insulin is also increased, it is a more favourable environment for cancer cells to grow.
- Insulin promotes angiogenesis, which is the growth of new blood vessels, meaning that it facilitates the growth of cancer cells, especially in solid tumors because they receive more oxygen supply.
- ngiogenesis also allows cancer cells to potentially travel to other places of the body and create metastasis.
Be Smart About Sugar In Your Diet
Sugar provides energy but doesn’t give you any nutrients that are needed to reduce your cancer risk. Natural sugars are found in fruits and dairy products and can be part of a healthy diet. Added sugarsthe kind that’s added to food during processing, such as white sugar, corn syrup, and fruit juice concentrateshould be avoided or limited. Consuming too many sugar calories can lead to obesity and high insulin levels, which would contribute to your increased cancer risk. Cut back on sugar-loaded foods such as candy, baked goods, sugary cereals, and sodas to reduce your cancer risk. Balance your diet with plant foods, fish, and whole grainsparts of a healthy diet that have been linked to a lower risk of cancer.
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Cancer Myths Cause More Harm Than Good
Our body is designed to use blood sugar as fuel, so while sugar does feed cancer cells it also feeds healthy cells. Oversimplifying the sugar and cancer debate can cause more harm than good, creating stress and anxiety around food and mealtime. Focus on overall lifestyle changes, rather than worrying about one food, to benefit your health.
Do you need help with making lifestyle changes to support healthy blood sugar? Learn more about our oncology nutritionist by visiting Integrative Medicine or calling 757-594-3099.
A 2020 Success Story The Uk Governments Obesity Strategy
Were delighted that the sugar tax , which came into effect in April 2018, has been successful in removing a huge amount of sugar from fizzy drinks and our diets. This alongside other measures announced in the UK Governments 2020 obesity strategy should help to prevent millions of cases of overweight and obesity, and cancers linked to excess weight in the future, by reducing the amount of sugar the nation consumes.
But the Government hasnt made much progress in its plan to reduce the amount of sugar in the types of foods that are very popular with children. Four years into the programme, industry has failed to meet the voluntary targets set by Government, showing that a voluntary approach just isnt effective. This is also true for front-of-pack nutrition labelling where we want to see a consistent and mandatory approach.
Its also essential that reducing free sugars in our diets alongside other public health considerations be put at the forefront of the UK Governments upcoming trade deal negotiations in 2020 and beyond.
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What Should I Eat
Even if you donât think sugar can cause cancer, itâs still a good idea to eat less sugar. Research says you should shoot for 6 teaspoons a day if youâre a woman and 9 if youâre a man. Yet most people in the U.S. eat about 22. Thatâs 130 pounds of sugar each year.
Cantley says that means many Americans have high insulin levels all the time and a higher risk of cancer.
Peiying Yang, PhD, a cancer researcher and associate professor at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, agrees.
âI would be surprised if reducing sugar consumption wouldnât help reduce cancer risk,â she says. âIt makes sense to limit added sugar, including high-fructose corn syrup in soft drinks, sweetened teas, sports drinks, and processed foods, along with candy, cookies, ice cream, and sweetened breakfast cereal.â
Sheâs often asked whether itâs OK to eat fruit, since many fruits are high in fructose.
âItâs fine to eat fruit as part of a normal diet,â Yang explains, âbut there should be less fruit than vegetables. If the recommended serving is five fruits and vegetables a day, at least three servings should come from vegetables.â
Eating A Healthy Diet
Having a high sugar intake over time can contribute towards weight gain, and we know that being overweight can slightly increase the risk of developing breast cancer , other cancers and conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Eating a healthy diet and being physically active are important, however most foods can be included as part of a healthy diet as long as you get the right balance. Foods containing sugar can be eaten in moderation.
There is some evidence that diet and lifestyle can affect the risk of breast cancer coming back . Find out more about diet, lifestyle and recurrence risk.
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Sugar And Cancer Treatment: 4 Things Patients Should Know
There are many myths surrounding sugar and cancer treatment. But what do cancer patients really need to know about sugar to make sure theyre getting the best diet during treatment?
We spoke with Erma Levy, a dietitian at MD Anderson, to find out.
Eating dessert wont make your cancer spread
Many people think that sugar will make your cancer spread, but thats not technically true, Levy says.
Every cell in your body uses sugar, and that includes cancer cells. But that doesnt mean sugar will make your cancer spread.
The danger in sugar is that its basically empty calories. It would be better to consume vitamins and nutrients that help your body stay strong during cancer treatment, Levy says.
You dont need to cut all sugar from your diet
Eliminating all sugar from your diet is difficult and unnecessary.
You dont need to take an all or nothing approach, Levy says. Its best to consume no more than the recommended amount of sugar each day and to try to take in less sugar if you need to.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day for women and nine teaspoons per day for men.
Levy says its more important to focus on consuming less added sugar than natural sugars, like those found in fruits and grains.
Thats because added sugar which is found in drinks and processed or prepared foods — can lead to unwanted weight gain, which can cause other health problems.
Artificial sweeteners arent necessarily healthy
How Can I Cut Down On Free Sugar
Its free sugar were mainly concerned with when it comes to weight gain, not sugar that is naturally found in foods like fruits and milk or healthy starchy foods like wholegrains and pulses .
One of the easiest ways to lower your added sugar is to cut down on sugary drinks, which are the largest source of sugar in the UK diet.
Some sugary drinks, such as fizzy drinks and energy drinks, can have more than the recommended daily maximum amount of free sugar in one serving alone. And while these extra calories promote weight gain, they offer no other nutritional benefits.
Other obviously sugary foods such as sweets, chocolate, cakes and biscuits are all best kept as treats too. But some foods that have hidden high amounts of added sugar may surprise you. Some breakfast cereals, ready meals , pasta sauces and yoghurts can have shocking amounts of sugar added to them. Reading nutrition information labels and checking the ingredients list can help you choose lower sugar options.
While there are steps you and your family can take to cut down on added sugar, making these changes can be easier said than done. And its here that governments need to lend a hand.
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Does Sugar Cause Cancer
Sugar feeds every cell in your body. But does sugar cause cancer, orhelp it to grow and spread? Our expert says to watch out for addedsugars, but not for the reasons you may think.
Does sugar feed cancer cells?
Lets look at the evidence to find out whether sugar causes cancer to grow and spread more quickly.
Its true that sugar feeds every cell in our body even cancer cells. But, research shows that eating sugar doesnt necessarily lead to cancer. Its what sugar does to your waistline that can lead to cancer.
Taking in too many sugar calories may result in weight gain. And, being overweight or obese puts you at a higher risk for cancer and other diseases.
So, should you avoid sugar? Our expert says no.
Your bodys cells use sugar to keep your vital organs functioning, says Erma Levy, a research dietitian in Behavioral Science. But too much daily sugar can cause weight gain. And, unhealthy weight gain and a lack of exercise can increase your cancer risks.
Eat the right amount of sugar
So, how much sugar is safe to eat? Women should have no more than six teaspoons per day , and men should have no more than nine teaspoons per day , says the American Heart Association. This equals to about 100 calories for women and 150 for men.
If youre like most Americans, you actually eat more than double that much sugar in a day about 22 teaspoons. Thats 260 cups or 130 lbs. of sugar each year.
Spot hidden sugar in food
Getting The Nutrition You Need During Cancer Treatment
After a diagnosis of cancer, many people feel a loss of confidence when it comes to nutrition. Some cancer survivors question their earlier food choices, while others begin to strictly limit foods they consider bad, like sugar and caffeine.
As food is one of the few areas over which cancer survivors have some control, it is important to recognize which diet modifications may be helpful, and which may simply reflect a bargaining aspect of adjusting to a cancer diagnosis.
While this thought process is understandable, its a good idea to look at what the science tells us. Lets see if there may be some sensible and empowering diet changes you can make without taking away the enjoyment of eating.
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Managing Cancer While Minimizing Risks
If you want to mitigate the risks of your or someone you know cancers growing, implementing a healthy diet is the best way to decrease the odds. Vegetables, balanced proteins, low carbs, low sugar, and healthy nutrients are a great way to help your body maintain its power levels when battling cancer.
People Also Ask
Q: What do cancer cells feed on?A: cancer cells feed off glucose, which is just sugar you can find glucose in healthier food alternatives too, such as vegetables, dairy, and fruit.
Q: Does cancer feed off of sugar?A: yes, just like all other biological cells, cancer cells also need food, and sugar is one of them. However, its important to note that an increase in sugar will not speed up the rate of cancer growth, nor will the exemption of sugar slow down the growth of cancer cells.
Q: What should you not eat if you have cancer?A: if you have cancer, avoid foods such as processed meat, red meat, grilled meats, deep-fried meats, and baked meats, to name a few.
Food Inflammation And Cancer Risk
Were constantly learning new things about how different foods affect our health. For example, inflammation is a stress response and chronic inflammation is believed to cause DNA damage associated with cancer-causing genetic changes in normal tissues.
Certain foods stress the body more than others. Sugar and other carbohydrates can contribute to inflammation by causing blood glucose levels and, in response, insulin levels to rise. High levels of insulin which moves the sugar into the cells have been shown to stimulate cancer cell division. That activity is thought to support the growth and spread of cancer cells and may be part of the link between poor nutrition and cancer risk or relapse.
Increased fat deposition commonly observed in high-carbohydrate diets also can increase the amount of estrogen in the body, which can trigger cell division, especially in breast and uterine cells, which express the estrogen receptor. While carrying too much body fat is associated with insulin-resistance and inflammation, excess fat also produces estrogen.
How you prepare your food is important as well. Regularly consuming processed meats, such as hot dogs, sausages, and deli meats, has been shown to be associated with an increased cancer risk. And cooking foods at high temperatures, such as grilling or frying, can produce harmful compounds linked to increasing inflammation markers.
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How A Nutrition Expert Can Help
We are fortunate to have a wonderful nutrition team at UT Southwestern. These experts are fully integrated into our breast cancer care team, and they work with patients to make practical dietary changes.
Patients with breast cancer often ask what they should eat for the best chance of beating the disease. Unfortunately, theres no easy answer. Weight gain can be a side effect of breast cancer treatment, as can appetite changes and nausea. We dont want patients who are stressed from treatment to also feel the need to make big dietary changes during this difficult time. So, we often advise them to focus on eating what tastes good without overeating.
We also discuss how lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of recurrence.
Ultimately, eating a healthy diet can have a positive impact on many aspects of your life. Talk with your medical team about how to incorporate a nutrition plan that helps you feel satisfied, nourished, and more energetic while reducing your risk of breast cancer and other diseases.
To talk with a cancer or nutrition expert, call orrequest an appointment online.