Can Sugar Accelerate the Growth of Cancer Cells?

Sugar has always been viewed as the enemy when it comes to battling cancer because it is believed to fuel cancer cells. However, this is a big misconception. Your body lives off glucose, which is a single element of sugar. In fact, your brain and your heart depend on the energy from glucose to function.

So where did this myth come from?

It’s true that cancer cells absorb 20 to 30 times more sugar than other cells in the body. Don’t let that scare you, though! The myth that sugar feeds cancer stems from the use of a PET scan or Positron Emission Tomography.  This technique is performed by inserting an IV into a vein that injects a sugar mixture into the bloodstream. The machine can detect where cancer is located within your body, which works due to the rate at which cancer cells are able to absorb sugars. However, this does not indicate that cancer will grow faster because it is intaking more sugar. Every cell in your body needs glucose to survive, including cancer cells, and if you were to stop eating sugar then your body would revert to retrieving its glucose supply from other sources: like breaking down other proteins and fatty acids (in other words, your body would go into survival mode because you need glucose to live).

HOLD ON A MINUTE, THOUGH. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t limit the amount of sugar in your diet

People in the United States consume an average of 20 teaspoons, or 306 calories, of sugar each day. The recommended number of teaspoons sits at about 7.5. That means the average individual is consuming almost three times what is recommended. Yikes. Excess sugar creates fat and fat releases hormones that regulate certain cells in the body. An exorbitant amount of fat leads to the increased risk of damaging the DNA that is housed within those cells.  When that DNA is damaged, many diseases can develop, including cancer. Intaking larger quantities of sugar also increases the amount of insulin in your body which can put you at a higher risk of cancer and also diabetes.

What can I do to help prevent cancer from developing or making it worse?

Here are a few tips you can use in your daily life:

  • Cutting back on sugary drinks and food– Cutting back these items with a high amount of sugar is a great place to start. Soda, sports drinks, and candy often have high fructose corn syrup. Stick to all-natural sugar sources like fruit (but don’t overeat fruit as it still contains a decent amount of sugar). You should consume more vegetables than fruit. The recommended amount is 3-4 servings of vegetables per day.
  • Exercise– If you are overweight, exercise will help to break down fat. Exercising also breaks down sugar to give you energy. This will also help with the amount of sugar in your body.
  • Whole grains– Stick with foods that are whole grains like brown rice, whole grain breads and pastas and stay away from white bread, pastas made from refined grains
  • Lean Protein Lean protein sources like skinless poultry, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy, tofu, beans, nuts, or seeds have been shown to have health benefits—including helping to lower blood pressure and increasing good cholesterol. Red meats have been studied to cause cancer and should be limited.
  • Enterade– Enterade is a clinically proven, medical food that can help alleviate the side effects of cancer treatment chronic GI dysfunction while also keeping you hydrated. Enterade it is sugar-free, unlike most sports drinks and protein shakes. If you are on cancer treatment or have stomach problems, enterade would be perfect in helping rebuild the villi or good cells in your gut.

 

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