Some cancer researchers have been asking the question: Does Sugar Feed Cancer? If the answer to that question is Yes, the next logical question is then, Can we Starve Cancer? This basically sums up the metabolic theory for cancer – which says that we should be looking at cancer as a metabolic disease, not a genetic mutation.
The cool thing about this approach – is that it offers new hope. We can change our metabolism, but we can’t change our genes.
The metabolic theory for cancer may seem new, but it is not. Ninety years ago Nobel Laureate Dr. Otto Warburg discovered that cancer cells are metabolically different from normal cells, and that they require sugar to grow and thrive. Since then various studies have demonstrated a potent link between sugar and cancer, including that malignant cells die when starved of glucose.
According to this Dr. Mercola article, “a cell can produce energy in two ways: aerobically, in the mitochondria, or anaerobically, in the cytoplasm, which generates lactic acid — a toxic byproduct. The former is far more efficient, capable of generating 32 times more adenosine triphosphate (ATP) than anaerobic energy generation. Dr. Warburg concluded that the prime cause of cancer was reversion of energy generation from aerobic energy generation to anaerobic fermentation.”
“For cancer there is only one prime cause…it is the replacement of the respiration of oxygen in normal body cells by a fermentation of sugar.” – Nobel Prize winner, Otto Warburg
Sugar molecules are present in high numbers in cancer cells, in fact – that is one way to test for cancer – a radioactive glucose solution is swallowed, and a PET scan can see that areas that are cancerous – because cancerous cells naturally take up more of the solution than non-cancerous ones. A 2013 University of Copenhagen study found that sugar was not just present in cancer cells – but that it aided the growth of malignant cells.
Researchers out of the University of Wurzburg in Germany, concluded that “significantly reducing the intake of dietary carbs could suppress or at least delay the emergence of cancer, and the proliferation of existing tumor cells could be slowed down.” According to their study, Otto Warburg’s theory appears correct: “many cancer patients exhibit an altered glucose metabolism characterized by insulin resistance and may profit from an increased protein and fat intake.”
There is currently promising research underway at the Salk Institute in La Jolla led by Dr. Reuben Shaw, PhD. to study the link between diabetes, sugar metabolism, and cancer.
According to researchers at MD Anderson – fructose, glucose, and sucrose – all types of sugar, affect a metabolic pathway that helps cells metastasize, or spread. “The majority of cancer patients don’t die of their primary tumor. They die of metastatic disease,” Cohen told NBC News. These findings suggest that those who eat more sugary foods could be more likely to have cancer mestastize and spread. Their study showed that mice whose diets were high in sugar, were 50% more likely to get cancer. And that the more sugar you fed them, the bigger the tumors grew.
A study published in 2004 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that diets comprised of more than 57% carbohydrates, more than doubled the risk of developing breast cancer. “Scientists have long suspected that diet was among the factors contributing to breast cancer,” said study co-author Walter Willett, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H, the Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. “Now, with studies like ours, we are beginning gradually to understand what elements of diet specifically are associated with the disease, and to grasp the chemical and biological processes that contribute to it at the cellular level.” Researchers suspect that the elevated insulin levels and insulin-like growth factor were potentially to blame for the rise in cancer.
Yet despite the ling history linking sugar to cancer, and all of the recent studies and mounting evidence of a link between sugar and cancer development and growth – nutrition is rarely considered or discussed with cancer patients. In fact, you will often find candies, cookies and sodas in oncology departments.
According to The American Cancer Society, “there will be an estimated 1,685,210 new cancer cases diagnosed and 595,690 cancer deaths in the US. in 2016.” That is almost 6 hundred thousand people that will die this year from cancer.
With 50% of men receiving a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, and 30% of women being diagnosed – cancer affects all of us, either personally or with a loved one or friend being diagnosed. Cancer mortality rates have not changed significantly since the 1950s despite billions of dollars being raised and spent on research. For nearly a century – sugar has been linked to cancer – and thankfully more studies are being done to understand this link and what we can all do with this information to prevent and treat cancers.
If sugar feeds cancer, what happens when we stop eating it – can we essentially “starve” cancer? That is what a lot of proponents of “the metabolic theory of cancer” are purporting. Diets high in fats, extremely low in carbohydrates, and moderate protein are called ketogenic diets – and they force the body to burn fat (ketones) as fuel instead of it’s preferred fuel – sugar. Ketogenic diets have been recognized for years as a nutritional way to treat epilepsy, and also for weight loss, and improved brain function. The jury is still out on whether or not it is an effective long term solution/approach to preventing or treating cancer. But it is exciting to watch the research being done, and it could potentially could offer new hope for cancer prevention and treatment.
Learn more about the metabolic theory of cancer in this fascinating book: Tripping over the Truth by Travis Christopherson.
The question is – do you have to go all the way to a ketogenic diet to starve cancer, or is significantly cutting down on our intake enough? Current guidelines from the American Heart Association are that women should get no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day, and men no more than 9 teaspoons. Most Americans are getting more than double that. Overtime, when we overload our metabolism with sugars, it gets less effective at processing them (insulin resistance), and that is when the trouble begins.
In addition to stubborn weight gain, sugar and carb-heavy diets are linked to a higher risk of developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, nerve damage, and even death of all causes – read 20 Reasons to Break up with Sugar to learn more.
Manufacturers know that we love sugar, and that it is as addictive as a drug. So adding it to foods gets consumers to buy their food over and over. Over 75% of all packaged and processed foods contain added sugars – even foods that are not considered “sweet” like Cheetos and Doritos!! Most people have no idea how much sugar they are actually getting in their diets every day – because it is sneaking in all day long – even in “healthy choices” like yogurts, cereals, sports nutrition foods, and snack bars.
When I was a kid, sugar was a major food group for me. There was nothing I loved more than cookies, ice cream, soda, or candy. I always knew sugar wasn’t good for me, that it was essentially “empty calories” (contains no vitamins, minerals, fiber or nutrients). But for decades, I believed the myth that those empty calories were totally harmless. Now I know the truth – that sugar raises our risk of many diseases.
My addiction to sugar continued into adulthood – with diet sodas, chocolate, and high glycemic foods like pretzels. One of the best things I ever did – was to take back the control from sugar. I will never know what disease I may have prevented by breaking up with sugar, but I do know that not only did my energy, sleep, and moods improve – but I noticed my skin looking more vibrant and youthful! And my tastebuds even changed!! Now the idea of eating an ice cream drenched in caramel sauce does not appeal to me in the least! I still do enjoy a square or two of dark chocolate however.
Want to take back control of your health? Join me for the Break up with Sugar Program – the next group starts on November 2nd:
Here’s How Sugar Might Fuel the Growth of Cancer
Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.
©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.
© copyright 2019 Sara Vance