Is There A Direct Link Between Cancer And Sugar?

As a species, humans have really evolved from having to hunt for food. At one point, food was scarce and wasn’t as available as it is today.

We have food all around us, and it’s not going away any time soon. 

There are two things heavily debated when it comes to cancer research. One of them being, is this really an age-old disease, is it a newer disease, or somewhere in between? 

The other topic that comes up when it relates to what causes cancer is sugar. For us to understand the link, we need to dive deeper into what sugar actually is and all its different forms.

Sugar Forms

There are a few different forms sugar can come in. Let’s take a look at them. 

Fructose

What is fructose? Fructose is a type of sugar, often called fruit sugar, that is found naturally in many vegetables and fruits. It appears as a white crystalline powder. 

Lactose

What is lactose? Lactose sugar is one of many types of sugar. It is a disaccharide containing glucose and galactose molecules. It is found naturally in milk as well as some dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and butter.

Glucose

What is glucose? Glucose is a sugar made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, which are arranged to form a chain or ring. Glucose is the “blood sugar” present in our bloodstream.

Sucrose

What is sucrose? Sucrose is another type of sugar that comes from refined cane or beet molasses. This type of sugar is also known as table sugar because it does not contain any nutrients, and you can find it at your local grocery store in the baking aisle.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates that are broken down and absorbed by the body are converted to glucose, which is then used as fuel for cells. When sugar is consumed in its pure form, it passes directly from the digestive system into the bloodstream.

The sugar that we see the most of is sucrose, or otherwise known as table sugar. 

Foods high in carbohydrates, like pasta or pizza, don’t have a sweet taste, but the carbohydrates in them break down as sugar in our bodies. 

Most people not on a ketogenic or low-carb diet use carbohydrates because that’s how their bodies use energy. 

If we starve or restrict our bodies of carbohydrates, the body is then forced to switch fuel sources and begins to burn fat as fuel by creating ketone bodies. When your body enters into this state of fat-burning, it’s called ketosis.

Research is continuing to see more and more that cancer cells use sugar as its energy source. (1)

Put simply, it’s believed that the main source for cancer happens through the replacement of oxygen within normal cells by sugar fermentation. This was first studied by the research of Dr. Otto Warburg, who won the Nobel prize for his work.

Insulin’s Role In The Body

Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar, and it is also referred to as a key regulator of glycemic response. 

It was first discovered in the early 20th century by U.S. physician Frederick Banting, along with Canadian scientists James Collip and John Macleod, who received the Nobel Prize for their discovery in 1923.

If someone is resistant to insulin, then blood sugar spikes higher than normal, which induces IGF-1, or insulin-like growth factor. IGF-1 has been shown to help cancer expand and multiply. (2

If you’re overweight, you have higher chances of getting at least 13 types of cancer. (3)

Scientists and researchers are seeing more and more the link sugar has with cancer. It increases when insulin levels are high, and high insulin is driven by sugar consumption. 

As a rule of thumb, you should limit the amount of added sugar in food and drinks. 

Can Fasting Be The Cure?

Intermittent fasting, or IF, is a method of dieting that alternates periods of fasting with periods of feeding. Simply put, it’s eating nothing for a set period each day. The idea is that fasting triggers beneficial cellular processes that may help protect the body against cancer cells.

There have been some really interesting studies done that are worth looking at. In one study, researchers tested the effects of fasting on mice that had human breast cancer cells transplanted into them. 

They decided to run their experiment in two phases. For the first 5 days, they gave the mice a calorie-restricted diet (CRD). This is a low-calorie diet that is similar to what you would see an average person go on when trying to lose fat. This is a decent method of cutting calories, but it has its drawbacks.

Researchers noticed that the mice that were on CRD and had breast cancer tumors saw a reduction in tumor growth during those first five days. 

After five days, they shifted to the second phase, which was intermittent fasting. In this phase, the mice were separated into two groups to see which protocol had the best effect on cancerous tumors – a group that ate nothing for one day per week or a group that ate food every other day. 

This is where it gets interesting. Tumors stopped growing in both of the IF groups but continued to grow in the control group. (3)

The reason fasting has been shown to have so many benefits is because of the process of autophagy. Autophagy is a process where your body recycles old and damaged cellular components, and that’s where the magic happens.

Cells cannot grow and divide if they’re constantly being attacked by free radicals, so autophagy is a defensive process that creates spare parts from within the cell to prevent it from dying completely.

Fasting triggers the autophagic process due to low levels of insulin and high levels of glucagon present in the body during starvation. 

Summary

As sugar consumption is at an all-time high, we want to limit our intake of it. 

Fasting is a life-changing practice for many people. It offers numerous benefits and reaps many rewards. Fasting can help reduce chronic inflammation, help your body heal, and even boost your immune system.

If fasting isn’t something that’s feasible for you to incorporate into your lifestyle on a regular basis, then it could be valuable to do so intermittently or under the guidance of a healthcare provider.

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