Cancer feeds on sugar. Did you know that?
First of all, let’s take it for granted, “we all have cancer sleeping inside of us”. This is the statement that opened the conference given by physician David Servan-Schreiber, in connection with his book Anticancer and presented at Université Laval on January 23rd. Then, Dr. Servan-Schreiber continued with another shocking revelation: “Cancer feeds on sugar”.
It is quite well known that our sugar consumption has been increasing steadily since the end of the Second World War. It has risen from 30 kg per person per year in 1940 to 70 kg at the end of the 19th century. Today we know the negative impacts of sugar, especially on weight gain, tooth decay and cardiovascular disease. But that sugar plays such an important role in the development of cancer, I find it surprising!
It was the German biologist Otto Heinrich Warburg who discovered that the metabolism of cancer cells is dependent on sugar. In fact, the PET scanner (or TEP in French), to detect cancer in the body, measures the regions that consume the most glucose. If a region has an excessive consumption of glucose, there is a strong probability that it is cancer.
Not only would sugar feed cancer cells, but it would also cause the disease to grow. In order for the sugar to be absorbed by the cells, the body secretes insulin. And this insulin secretion is accompanied by the release of a molecule called Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF), which in turn helps cancer cells grow and invade neighbouring tissues.
In addition, IGF is believed to increase inflammation, another factor that may help stimulate the growth of cancer cells.
This means that in addition to sugar, any food or meal that stimulates insulin production significantly would have the potential to create an ideal environment for cancer cell growth. So here we are again faced with the fact that our hyper modern diet is procancer. Foods such as white flours, high fructose corn syrup, white bread, instant rice, sweet cereals, overcooked pasta, etc. have a major impact on insulin production because they have a high glycemic index and are still very present in the diet of Westerners.
Of course, Dr. Servan-Schreiber also addressed several other aspects of diet that contribute to cancer, such as the lack of fruits and vegetables and the excess of omega-6 over omega-3.
Having said that, the challenge now is to get away from refined and processed foods by reducing the number of our restaurant visits, avoiding pre-prepared meals and taking the time to cook.
How far are you willing to go in your eating habits to protect yourself from cancer? How much time would you like to devote to this fight?
Servan-Schreiber, David. Anticancer. Preventing and fighting through our natural defenses. Robert Laffont. Paris. 2007.
Eating too much sugar: 25 reasons that prove its harmful effects on health
When you eat too much sugar, its pleasant taste makes you forget its dangers. But be aware that it can be extremely harmful to your health: here’s why:
1- Eating too much sugar is bad for the heart
Researchers at Harvard University followed thousands of American adults over a 15-year period and found that those who consume more than 25% of their daily intake of added sugar are twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who stick to 10% or less per day.
The greatest source of sugar?
- Sweetened beverages;
- Fruit drinks;
- Grain-based foods such as store-bought muffins;
- Dairy desserts such as ice cream.
2 – “No Sugar Added” does not mean “healthy”.
Even if the packaging says “100% juice”, it doesn’t mean you have to drink it all at once. The beverage may not contain added sweeteners, but the natural sugar in the drink is much more concentrated than what you might find in a piece of fruit. Unlike oranges and apples, which are high in fibre, juices offer empty calories and minimal nutritional value.
3 – Sugar abuse is linked to dementia
In 2017, researchers at the University of Bath discovered a molecular link between sweet diets and the causes of Alzheimer’s disease. They discovered that glycation – a natural reaction in which glucose acts on cells – causes damage to an enzyme that reduces the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain, a hallmark of the disease.
4 – Sugar won’t turn your kids on, it will do worse!
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that sugar does not affect children’s behaviour. “It could simply be the result of the environment where food is eaten (a party for example), which would make children more excited,” according to Andrea D’Ambrosio, a nutritionist in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. However, sugar increases their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. A 2016 study on obesity shows that by reducing the amount of sugar a child consumes for nine days, levels return to normal. You have to be careful of sugar that messes up the brain.
5 – Hidden sugar in snacks
Smoothies: Half a liter of the precious liquid contains 30 to 80 grams of sugar (a Hershey chocolate bar contains 24 grams).
Assorted dried fruit: always having a bag of dried fruit on hand may seem like a healthy choice, but 25% of brands contain up to 16 grams of sugar per bag.
Yogurt: An individual jar of fruit yogurt can contain up to 22 grams of sugar. If you add granola cereal to it, that number rises to 28. Why not opt for Greek yogurt?
Dressing: A salad as a meal is a good choice… unless you choose the wrong dressing. Some brands offer French or raspberry vinaigrettes that contain more than 5 grams of sugar per 2 tablespoons.
Oatmeal: Flavoured oatmeal seems like a healthy choice for a morning on the go, but each packet can contain up to 12 grams of sugar. Double the figure if you add a tablespoon of brown sugar.
6 – 13 5-pound sachets
This is the amount of sugar that the average American consumes in a year, most of the time without realizing it. The American Heart Association recommends that men consume no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) of added sugar per day (the equivalent of a sweetened chocolate bar) and no more than 6 (24 grams) for women. We consume an average of 19.5 teaspoons (78 grams) of sugar per day .
7- An expert says that you must reduce your consumption… immediately!
Laura A. Schmidt, a professor at the University of California at San Francisco, is concerned about the damage sugar does to our bodies. That’s why she is now the lead researcher for SugarScience, a university website created to be “the undisputed source of research and documentation on sugar and its health impacts. Her advice: “With all the negative things we read about sugar, should we turn to something else?
Evidence is mounting against saccharin, aspartame and sucralose. Some studies show that these sweeteners harm the microbiome found in the intestines. They are also associated with weight gain and glucose intolerance – both of which are reasons to turn to this type of product!
How can you avoid consuming these added sugars that interfere with your health?
I just don’t have any at home. Get it out of your environment. Once you start cutting, you’ll lose that craving for sugar. It’s a palate habit, and it won’t take long to get rid of it. You’ll notice that you’ll suddenly be able to taste the natural sugar in unprocessed foods, and you’ll find processed food unpleasant.
8 – Sugar is as bad for your liver as alcohol
Unlike other forms of sugar, fructose is processed in the liver. Although it is found in its natural form in fruit, we consume far too much of it because of our love of food containing sweeteners, which increases the number of non-alcohol-related liver diseases. A visible proof of this is the sugar belly (yes, like a beer belly!). How does this happen? The liver divides the excess fructose into fat globules, which then begin their journey through our blood vessels and accumulate in our internal organs and in the belly. Like alcohol damage, this causes inflammation and scarring. “It is one of the main causes of liver transplantation,” says Professor Schmidt.
9 – “Healthy” sweeteners are not better for you
Those who try to cut back on sugar consumption are sometimes attracted by the antioxidant benefits of maple syrup or the healing power of honey. This is a mistake. According to nutritionist Andrea D’Ambrosio, “Sugar doesn’t add an interesting amount of other ingredients. Sugar is sugar, so it’s best to use it sparingly, no matter what form it comes in”.
10 – 35 teaspoons
The average Canadian teenager consumes about 172 grams of sugar per day, according to the Canadian Community Health Survey. The biggest culprit in the 9-18 age group? Soft drinks. Over-consumption of sugar is directly linked to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cavities and high cholesterol in children. Over the past 30 years, the rate of obesity among young people has tripled, according to the most recent government figures.
11 – Sugar and cancer cells
A study from the University of Texas at Dallas shows that there is a link between sugar and carcinoma cells, which are difficult to treat and are responsible for a quarter of lung cancers. According to the study, four types of cancer cells “feed” on sugar.
12 – Sugar could keep you awake all night long
A 2016 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine shows that consuming a significant amount of sugar (and saturated fat, while neglecting fibre) is directly associated with restless and poor quality sleep.
13 – 4,6
Like a regular smoker, that’s how many years your body will age prematurely if you drink a 20 ounce sweetened beverage every day.
We drink too much liquid sugar
The good news is that we drink less soft drinks. Sales of such products are at their lowest level in the last 30 years. The bad news is that replacement beverages are not much better. Sales of flavoured waters, ready-to-drink coffees and teas, and energy or “sports” drinks are on the rise. Each can of energy drink contains about 30 grams of sugar. This figure rises to 40 for sports drinks, and 45 for a café au lait (latte).
14 – Sugar attacks your cholesterol
A 2010 study of 8,495 adult Americans published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that when an individual’s sugar intake increases, his or her good cholesterol level drops, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Women may be more sensitive to increases in bad cholesterol levels when they consume sugar, either in food or fluids.
15 – 74%
This is the percentage of “packaged” food with added sugar, according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which combed through more than 85,000 foods sold in the United States.
16 – Sugar can make you sad
Ending a bad day by attacking a jar of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream could make it worse. In 2015, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center found that post-menopausal women who consume a lot of sugar and refined grains are more likely to suffer from depression, while the risk decreases for those who eat more whole grains, vegetables and unprocessed fruit.
18 – Some labels may hide the amount of sugar.
For the first time in 20 years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking a fresh look at packaged goods labels to shed light on the link between diet and chronic disease. One of the changes is to clearly identify the actual presence of sugar in food.
19 – Caution: you may be eating sugar incognito.
Here are 10 pseudonyms used by manufacturers to give you the impression that what you eat does not contain sugar :
- Carob powder
- Corn syrup
- Evaporated sugar cane juice
- Fruit juice made from concentrate
- Corn syrup with fructose
20 – Sugar makes you lose your breath
Researchers have long believed that there is a link between sweetened beverages and asthma. After analyzing the cases of 146,990 American adults, they found that those who consumed at least two such beverages per day were at greater risk of developing respiratory disease.
21 – Sugar could be worse than salt for high blood pressure
According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, a high-fructose diet can raise your blood pressure above 120/80, the upper limit for so-called normal blood pressure. In a study published in 2014 in the BMJ Open Heart, experts claim that added sugar can have an even more detrimental effect on blood pressure than salt.
22 – It’s bad for your body mass index
Researchers from Reading University, Cambridge and Arizona State analyzed the sugar consumption of 1,700 men and women aged 39-77 in Norfolk, UK. According to their study, published in 2015, those who consumed the most sugar had a 54% chance of being overweight (a body mass index above 25) and were more likely to have masked the true amount of sugar ingested.
23 – Sugar ruins your teeth…
Your dentist is right: sugar causes cavities. How does it cause cavities? Here’s what really happens:
You drink a sugary drink at the local coffee shop.
The bacteria in your mouth thrive on the sugar that gives them energy.
These microorganisms multiply, creating thin plaque on the surface of your teeth.
This plaque releases an acid that dissolves the minerals on the surface that solidify your teeth.
The thicker the plaque gets, the more damage it causes. Small holes will appear and eventually become cavities…
24 – … and makes your gums bleed
Most children know the connection between candy and decayed teeth. But it should not be forgotten that a diet rich in sugar causes inflammation of the gums and increases the risk of periodontal disease. This is what a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2014 shows. The indices of periodontal disease include bad breath, bleeding gums and hypersensitivity of the teeth.
25 – You may be addicted
Although some researchers disagree that sugar may be addictive, a 2015 study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows that consuming sugar raises the level of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that “rewards” the brain like nicotine and morphine do. “There is evidence that sugar consumption causes cravings and withdrawal reactions, reactions that are specific to addiction problems,” according to Professor Schmidt. “The effects can be seen through RIM”. For their part, Australian researchers have discovered that medication used to treat cocaine and nicotine addiction, such as varenicline, could help those who overuse sugar products.