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Can Sugar Give You Cancer?

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Is there an easy, simple way to reduce cancer risk? According to a new study, yes. Find out more about this easy way to prevent cancer below.

Sugar is definitely bad for you in large quantities, but most people do not realize that your body runs on sugar. Much of the food that you eat is converted into glucose energy, which is a form of sugar. So, in small amounts, your body does need sugar, but definitely not in the massive quantities that Americans tend to eat today.

Too-high sugar levels can cause a wide range of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, heart problems, chronic inflammation, and a new study has found- cancer.

How Obesity and Cancer are Linked

Obesity is a clear risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes, the type of diabetes caused by insulin resistance. Typically, this is caused by having sustained high levels of sugar in the blood. Recent studies have found that not only is obesity linked with an increased risk for diabetes, sugar intake and diabetes indicate an increased risk for developing cancer. Individuals who have diabetes are twice as likely to get colon cancer or pancreatic cancer as individuals who do not have diabetes.

Study Details

A study on cancer risk and obesity was conducted by researchers from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid in 2013. The researchers found that a diet high in sugar feeds a gene linked with cancer development and progression. In short, sugary diets fuel cancer cells. Sugar causes the body to release a hormone known as GIP, which tells the pancreas to release insulin. This is how the body controls blood sugar levels.

But the study authors also found that a protein called β-catenin controls how much GIP is made. β-catenin activity is directly related to sugar consumption and it is also a known factor for the development of cancer. A high sugar diet causes the nuclear accumulation of β-catenin, leading to cell proliferation that causes cancer to develop.

The study authors stated, "We were surprised to realize that changes in our metabolism caused by dietary sugar impact on our cancer risk. We are now investigating what other dietary components may influence our cancer risk. Changing diet is one of easiest prevention strategies that can potentially save a lot of suffering and money."

Who is At Risk?

If you already have diabetes, you are at high risk for developing both colon cancer and pancreatic cancer according to this study. However, even if you are healthy, a diet high in sugar may determine your chances of getting cancer as you age.

The World Health Organization estimates that the number of obese individuals and people with diabetes doubles ever 20 years. Today, 12 percent of all adults are obese and 10 percent of all adults have diabetes and the numbers are ever increasing. In 2011, diabetes killed 4.6 million people around the world. The World Health Organization estimates that up to 39 percent of cancer deaths and 30 percent of deaths from any cause are the result of preventable diseases.

The WHO even estimates that about one out of every three cases of cancer were fully preventable through diet, exercise, and overall health.

Sugar Intake at Alarming Levels

Today, we eat more sugar than ever before. Since the early 1900s, our sugar intake has increased by 10 times or more. The average adult consumes between 12 and 16 percent of their daily calorie intake just from sugar. The average person consumes about 300 to 400 calories per day of pure sugar. Each person in the United States consumes about 170 pounds of sugar yearly.

You have probably noticed that many supper foods and foods that shouldn’t be sweet often have added sugar. Bread, pasta, soup, yogurt, milk, sauces, and most restaurant dinners are full of added sugar. Just about the only way to avoid extra sugar is to eat everything completely from scratch, which is not always feasible. History suggests two reasons for why so many modern foods contain high levels of sugar.

How We Eat So Much Sugar

Sugar Replaced Fat

During the first years of dietary guidelines in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, a few studies suggested that fat leads to weight gain and heart problems. In the 1970s and 80s, the USDA made its first recommendations to eat a low-fat diet. But when you remove fat from food, it becomes bland and tasteless. Manufacturers had to do something to replace the flavor after fat was removed, and the easy choice was to add sugar. People love sugar, because it is a quick energy source, and that helped people forget about the lack of flavor.

Sugar is Addicting

As humans, we crave sugar because it is a source of easy-to-use energy. Sugar provides fast energy, but it also causes an energy crash if we do not keep providing additional energy sources (from sugar or something else). Because of this, the agreement, between consumer and manufacturer was struck- albeit unconsciously. Consumers were more likely to purchase products that were sweet, so manufacturers continued to make foods sweeter and sweeter. Today, our sugar addiction has caught up with us as a society, as we have more preventable health problems than ever before.


How Sugar Feeds Cancer

Just like us, cancer cells thrive on sugar. Sugar molecules attach to body tissues in a process called glycosylation. Sugar-filled cells are common in cancer tissue. Researchers from University of Copenhagen were some of the first to identify the fact that sugar can actively cause cancer cells to grow. Sugar is fast, quick energy for cancer cells just like it is for us. But unlike us, cancer cells are less likely to grow and spread with other forms of energy, such as energy produced by protein or fat.

One Easy Way to Reduce Cancer Risk

According to these studies, the easiest way to reduce your cancer risk, obesity risk, and diabetes risk is to reduce your sugar intake. By reducing your sugar intake, you are starving potential cancer cells and preventing them from growing or spreading. This benefits your body in multiple ways, as we are not equipped to handle large doses of sugar.

According to the American Heart Association, our bodies can safely handle between 6 and 9 teaspoons of added sugar a day (sugar not from natural sources like fruit). This is the equivalent of one soda. If you eat a single dessert, one bowl of cereal, have one sweetened beverage, or one candy bar daily, you may have already gone over your safe sugar intake levels.

Pay careful attention to added sugars in traditionally non-sweet foods, as it is easy to consume large quantities of sugar without even realizing it through processed foods and restaurant foods.

Eat Less Sugar, Reduce Cancer Risk

Current research suggests that just be reducing your sugar intake you can significantly reduce your risk of developing cancer. More research is necessary, but there is enough evidence currently to suggest that the average American’s sugar intake is out-of-control and deadly. Reduce your sugar intake and you will not only reduce obesity risk, but you will also reduce your chances of getting diabetes and cancer, which is definitely enough reason to say no to the office donut tray.

Next Article: Diabetes and Congestive Heart Failure