More often than not, anyone who is diagnosed with cancer is advised to do one thing before everything else – stop sugar!

In this blog, let us discover what we need to know about the old rivals – sugar and cancer.

First things first:

  1. Table sugar is scientifically called ‘sucrose’ which is the simplest and most refined form of sugar. This sugar is processed to extract from a natural source to give us table sugar, the white granular substance that is commonly found in the kitchen
  2. As chains of sugar combine and form complex structures, they slowly start losing their sweetness and form large compounds of starchy foods such as rice, bread, and potatoes. These starchy vegetables and fruits contain some form of sugar
  3. The glucose in the sugar is the to-go fuel for our body, especially our brain – which needs glucose to function effectively throughout the day. The numerous cells in our body need the energy to survive and carry out their functions and rely on different energy sources for providing them this energyThe point where sugar and cancer cross paths are because cancer is the disease of the cells and these cells need glucose and other nutrients as an energy source.

Sugar and Cancer :

We all know that cancer cells grow rapidly in the body, which means that they also need a lot of glucose. But that is not all. Apart from needing glucose as fuel, cancer cells just like our body cells, need other nutrients like amino acids and vitamins to grow too!

This is where the myth about sugar ‘feeding’ the cancer cells was born – that if cancer cells need a lot of glucose to multiply, then the wise thing to do is to stop the intake of sugar and by this means – starve the cancer cells! However, although the human body is very intelligent, unfortunately, it does not have a mechanism to just let the healthy cells take up glucose and deprive the cancer cells of it.

If this was true, the only treatment in the world available for cancer would be to stop sugar and starve the cancer cells and prevent their growth. There is no evidence available as of now that a completely sugar-free diet helps in curing or suppressing cancer growth once diagnosed with cancer. Besides, following severely restrictive diets such as a very low carbohydrate diet can result in unhealthy outcomes in the long term, especially in people with cancer where the treatment itself can result in poor intake and weight loss.

Having said all of this, a lot of importance is still being given to eating healthy, eating clean, and limiting the consumption of refined foods, sugar, processed foods, and so on – Why is that?

Let’s know why.

Although we have tried to establish so far, that there is no ‘direct’ link between sugar and cancer, there is an indirect link.

  1. Eating foods that contain a lot of sugar can lead to weight gain over some time, and there is enough scientific evidence that shows that being overweight or obese increases the risk of at least 10 to 12 types of different cancers (Like Ovarian Cancer, Breast Cancer, Esophageal Cancer, Colorectal Cancer, Endometrial Cancer, and others)! Moreover, obesity is one of the biggest modifiable risk factors after smoking to prevent cancer!
  2. High sugar diet increases the chances of developing other chronic diseases like Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, Polycystic Ovarian Disease, and Heart Diseases in the long run.
  3. When a person consumes sugar-rich foods, there is an increase in blood sugar levels – causing more insulin and eventually insulin-like growth factor (IGF) to release. This IGF has shown some types of cancer cells to grow. If the blood sugar levels are well controlled, a low amount of IGF is released which does not promote cancer growth. Hence it is important to prefer foods rich in fiber – that is complex carbohydrates as against simple carbohydrates (sugar, processed foods, sugary drinks).

The story of sugar and cancer has no sweet endings and remains complicated. The important takeaway message here is that while going completely sugar-free and adopting carbohydrate-restrictive diets will not cure or stop cancer, it is wise to make healthy food choices and maintain a healthy body weight to reduce the risk of developing cancer!

Top 10 Cancer Super Foods you should know about,Read here.