Sinister Deception: Sugar-Cancer Link

sugar, sucrose, fructose, HFCS, sugar cube

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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?

Journal of the National Cancer Institute

Science Daily

This post is linked to: Fresh Bites Friday, Food Trip Friday, Fight Back Friday, Fat Camp Friday, Fun With Food Friday, La Bella Vita, My Meatless Monday, Melt in Mouth Monday,Monday Mania, Meatless Monday Mangia Monday, Mouthwatering Monday, Tuesday Night Supper Club, Tuesday at the Table, Made From Scratch Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday Parade of Foods, Weekend Gourmet Blog Carnival, Tasty Tuesdays, What’s on the Menu, What’s Cooking Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Gluten- Free Wednesday, Made it on Monday, Foodie Wednesday, Full Plate Thursday, Frugal Follies, Tip Day Carnival, Simple Lives Thursday, Food Trip Friday

  • nicolette @ momnivores dilemma

    As a child reared on crap 80s processed food, I couldn’t agree more. Sugar is the devil. I’ve been GF for a year, and still fight sugar/carb cravings. I’m moving toward GAPS and WAPF because of my destroyed gut and the guts of my boys…

    Thanks for sharing this….

  • Jill

    Hi Nicolette,
    You definitely going in the right direction!

  • gengen

    Nice one for the FTF! Mine is up.

  • Cranberry Morning

    I’m convinced that sugar is poison and always makes you want more. I’ve also read from nutritionists that vegetables also have antioxidants, like fruit, so there’s no reason to eat fruit. It is SO HIGH in sugar and causes an immediate insulin response that sets up cravings for more sugar.

  • Jill

    Hi Cranberry Morning,
    Yes, many people eat very little fruit and mostly vegetables for their carbs.

  • anie

    The information against sugar just keeps on coming! I surely wish there was a way for my extended family to “hear” all of this~they are either set up for metabolic syndrome or fighting cancer as we speak.
    Ah. Well, take care of what we can, right?
    Thanks for posting~this is a good breakdown of Lustig’s talk~

  • Jill

    Hi Anie,
    Thanks for your comments. Those Easter Egg faces on your site are so cute! I see you talked about the sugar article as well! Some people just don’t “get it”.

  • barbara goodman

    This article is motivating me to get back on track & stay away from white carbs & desserts.

  • Jill

    Hi Barbara,
    That is exactly what it is supposed to do!

  • christy

    I agree with all of that. I wish that I could get this point across to my hubby and his family.

  • Jill

    Hi Christy,
    You just have to keep trying.

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  • Yolanda

    I have a question. Do you think that drinking water kefir is bad for us then? Water Kefir Grains live on sugars and they converts sucrose to fructose.

  • Jill

    Hi Yolanda,
    I think water kefir is fine – great, if it has been fermented long enough so that most of the sugar is consumed by the organisms. It should be on the sour side. Also there is glucose in the sugar as well – so it is not all fructose in the kefir.There is always going to be fructose in the diet and I’m sure it is fine. There has been some talk of just how much and I will be posting about that at some point. I found your discussion about fermented grains very interesting.

  • Yolanda

    Thank you. I look forward to reading your post about this coming up!

  • Joy @ Joy of Desserts

    I agree with man-made high fructose corn syrup being a poison. Extensive research from major universities and hospitals has pretty much proven that as fact. You can read on of my articles on the subject at this link:

    As far as sugar and real fruit sugars, I think it’s just like anything else. Any food or vitamin, if taken in too large a quantity, or by people with illnesses, can become toxic. I think the fact that we have been eating naturally derived sugars, honeys and fruits for millions of years with no ill effects shows that it’s not harmful to the average person when eaten moderately. Even water can kill when taken in too large a quantity.

  • Miz Helen

    Very interesting article, and certainly this is one of the current debates about sugar and cancer. I just have my own personal experience to contribute. I am a 13 year breast cancer survivor. I was told by my care team in the beginning of the treatment to eliminate artificial sugar’s from my diet and to limit my intake of refined sugar, which I did and still do. I am truly grateful to be alive, mine was stage 3 cancer. We all certainly have to make choices based on the information that is best suited for us on any given day. Thank you for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and hope to see you next week!

  • Jill

    Hi Joy,
    Thanks for your comments. I will definitely read your articles. Of course, all things in moderation is the best approach.

  • Jill

    Hi Miz Helen,
    Thank you so much for sharing what must have been a rough experience. I agree we all have to make choices based upon the information we have at hand. That is why I write all these articles — so that people get the other side of the story…

  • Jill

    Joy — I just read your post about the corn syrup and I agree with it totally. I did not know about the mercury — thanks for all the links to research articles! Good post!

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  • Shawn

    Interesting, while I agree that sugar and HFCS are terrible for us. What about the fructose that naturally is found in fruit??

  • Jill

    Hi Shawn,
    That is a good question and one that I will be posing about in the near future. The answer will probably lie in “everything in moderation.” We should be eating more vegetables than fruit and we probably don’t require as much as 5 -9 servings a day, if we are eating pastured animal products (The animals eat the vegetables for us and the nutrients are in the milk or meat).

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