In Robert Lustig’s YouTube video “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” he makes the argument that sugar is as poisonous and dangerous to health as cigarettes and alcohol. He may know something about this as he is a pediatric endocrinologist and the leading expert on childhood obesity at the University of California School of Medicine. Dr. Lustig argues that sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are poisons that are abused by people and they are the leading cause of the obesity epidemic in America today. This epidemic causes diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome and cancer. The research that he is interpreting in order to make that statement implicates fructose and the way that it is metabolized by the body.
So here is the crux of the matter–it is the molecule of fructose that is harmful.
Known as simple sugar, sucrose, beet sugar, cane sugar or table sugar, the chemical composition is fifty percent glucose and fifty percent fructose. It is this chemistry (the high amount of fructose in the sugar molecule) that is the basis for the detrimental effects of sugar, beyond the common knowledge of damage to teeth and weight gain. Furthermore, things have gotten even worse with the addition of GM high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as a major new food additive to the diet.
Fructose is metabolized by the body differently than glucose. The fructose component is metabolized by the liver while glucose is metabolized by all the cells in the body. Therefore, consuming sugar with a fructose component causes the liver to work harder each time. Additionally, if you take the sugar/fructose as a liquid (as in fruit drinks and soda) it will reach the liver that much faster and it will have a greater effect. Research has shown that in rats when fructose hits the liver with sufficient speed and quantity, the liver will convert much of it to fat. If this occurs chronically, it will induce insulin resistance — a condition that is now considered the fundamental problem in obesity and which leads to heart disease and type II diabetes. Furthermore, the science suggests that it leads to tumor growth. Studies have shown that sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) actually drives the obesity epidemic. Additionally, many of the researchers also believe that it is sugar in the modern diet that provokes cancer. Current studies have shown that having insulin resistance actually promotes tumor growth, because in this condition the body has to secrete more and more insulin and/or insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and these chronically elevated insulin levels support malignancy.
A 2007 report published by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer research entitled, “Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer,” concludes that there is a link between the western diet and cancer and the common denominator is insulin resistance.
Sugar feeds cancer. Nutritionists have been saying that for years backed by scientific proof. One researcher providing this proof is Graig Thompson who is now the president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. In an interview with Gary Taubes that was presented in The New York Times Magazine article called “Is Sugar Toxic?”, Thompson explains that the fuel for cancer is blood sugar. Insulin supplies cancer cells with the nutrients (sugar) and signals to grow and multiply. Some cancers develop mutations that increases the influence of insulin on the cell, while other cells simply take advantage of the elevated levels of insulin present in the body. Thompson believes that cell mutations occur when insulin drives cells to take up and metabolize sugar. These mutations turn precancerous cells into malignant tumors.
Another researcher interviewed by Taubes is Lewis Cantley, director of the Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School. He says that the effects of insulin drives 80% of the mutations or environmental factors that affect human cancers. Cantley is now the leader of a team of scientists financed by a national coalition called Stand Up To Cancer to study the link between the specific insulin-signaling gene (P13K) and development of tumors in breast cancer and other female cancers.
Additionally, research recently published in the journal Cancer Research, supports the work showing that fructose is a major player in driving the growth and proliferation of cancer cells. In this case they studied pancreatic cancer, a fierce and rapid cancer. They found that the tumor cells used fructose for cell division, provoking rapid growth and spread of the cancer.
Inevitably the research on the insulin/cancer link is aimed at finding a drug that will work to suppress insulin signaling in incipient cancer cells and thus inhibit tumor growth. That sounds like a good idea, but what about the obvious? Why not try to prevent cancer in the first place by eliminating much of the sugar/fructose in the diet. That would decrease the risk factors of elevated insulin levels, obesity, and insulin resistance and could prevent all the diseases that follow. Switching to a more paleo/primal diet or a traditional diet of home made foods will eliminate many of the dangerous sugars and additives that cause all of these problems. Insulin is released in the presence of carbohydrate foods. If these foods are reduced, insulin resistance can never develop.
What is your thinking on this? Please let me know.
Gary Taubes: Is Sugar Toxic?