Sugar: The Hidden Connection To Cancer

December 3, 2017

 

 

I'm sure you've heard and read about sugar and sugar sweetened beverages and its connection to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, teeth and gum disease, even dementia, depression and anxiety.

 

And of course all of diseases shorten our life.  A 2013 study estimated that 180,000 deaths worldwide may be attributed to sweetened beverage consumption.  The United States alone accounted for 25,000 deaths in 2010. [1]

 

And now a new revelation: Sugar also contributes to cancer.  This surprise connection is not new - it was discovered in a study which was conducted 50-years ago, but was squashed and hidden by the Sugar Research Foundation.

 

Sounds like cover-up?

And what evidence is there to say that the odd donut might lead you to develop cancer?

 

An article published recently in the journal PLOS Biology cites internal documents by the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF), suggesting that knowledge of a possible link between sugar and cancer goes back as far as the 1960s. [2,5]

 

A preliminary review revealed that rats who were fed a high-sucrose diet had double the rate of breast cancer and higher serum cholesterol levels, than those on a starch-based diet.  At the time, authors speculated that gut bacteria was to blame.

 

And so 'Project 259' was born in 1968.  This was a study to compare "the nutritional effects of bacterial organisms in the intestinal tract" in rats fed sucrose versus those fed starch.

 

SRF's internal report explains that "among Project 259's observations was that urine from rats on the basic diet contained an inhibitor of beta-glucuronidase activity in a quantity greater than that from sucrose-fed animals." This was one of the first demonstrations of a biological difference between sucrose and starch-fed rats. [2]

 

But what does this have to do with cancer?

 

Beta-glucuronidase is an enzyme that helps to break down large molecules, which release toxins into the body and high levels of this substance is linked to bladder and breast cancer.  [4]

 

When this data became available, SRF stopped the funding and closed the study, as the findings would have been unfavorable to the sugar industry's commercial interests.  In addition, publication of results suggesting an association between sucrose consumption and bladder cancer would likely have had further adverse regulatory implications for the sugar industry. [2,5]

 

Other data showed that fructose, a constituent of table sugar and sucrose both change cell metabolism and raise the activity of cancer-promoting proteins. [3]

 

There is a well-known Warburg effect  - a phenomenon in which cancer cells rapidly break down sugars and stimulate tumor growth.  The hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth.  This discovery provides more evidence for a positive correlation between sugar and cancer, which may have far-reaching impacts on tailor-made diets for cancer patients. [6]

 

There are several studies that have found an increased risk of endometrial cancer in women who consumed high levels of sucrose.  When it comes to other types of cancer, the data  has linked sugar intake to colon cancer—particularly in men.

 

Perhaps we should all be cutting down our sugar consumption.

 

The question is, how easy is it to get away from the sweet temptation that is sugar?

 

Sugar lurks everywhere.

 

Foods with added sugars include sodas, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, fruit drinks, desserts, dairy products, breakfast cereals, canned and processed foods.

 

It is recommended to look carefully for added sugars in the ingredients listed on the packaging.  These may be included under several names, many ending with the letters -ose, such as:

  • maltose

  • high fructose corn syrup

  • molasses

  • cane sugar

  • corn sweetener

  • raw sugar

  • syrup

  • honey

  • fruit juice concentrates 

To my own surprise, I found that sugar was listed as one of the ingredients in a "Healthy Low Fat dressing" in the grocery store last week.

 

So, what does it all mean?

 

There is clearly plenty of evidence that too much sugar is bad for our health.

 

Whether we can rely on industry-funded research to get to the bottom of this is a contentious issue and is perhaps best left to personal choice.

 

A healthy diet is one of the key ingredients to personal health, and there are countless studies supporting this claim.  Taking a measured look at the amount of sugar that we put into our bodies, whether consciously or hidden in plain sight by the food industry, is certainly not going to do us any harm.  If anything, it's going to sweeten our health.

 

Please remember that artificial sweeteners are still worse than sugar and carry even greater risks for diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  For more information, see my post on "Is it safe to drink Diet Soda?"

 

For more information on a healthy lifestyle and how to minimize the toxic effects of carbohydrates and sugars on cancer risk, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Koganski at 215-750-7000 or www.newtowninternalmedicine.com

 

References:

[1]  Lawrence de Koning, et al. Sweetened Beverage Consumption, Incident Coronary Heart Disease, and Biomarkers of Risk in Men doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.111.067017Circulation. 2012;125:1735-1741.

[2]  Kearns CE, et al. Sugar industry sponsorship of germ-free rodent studies linking sucrose to hyperlipidemia and cancer: An historical analysis of internal documents. PLoS Biol 15(11): e2003460. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2003460.

[3]  Undurti N. Das, Sucrose, fructose, glucose, and their link to metabolic syndrome and cancer, UND Life Sciences, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2014.05.015.

[4]  Hao Jin, Shaobo Zhou. The Functions of Heparanase in Human Diseases. Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry.Volume 17 , Issue 6, 2017.DOI : 10.2174/1389557516666161101143643.

[5]  Yella Hewings-Martin, Sugar and cancer: A surprise connection or 50-year cover-up?Healthline/Medical News Today, November 29, 2017.

[6[  Ken Peeters, et al. Fructose-1,6-bisphosphate couples glycolytic flux to activation of Ras. Nature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01019-z.

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