Several years ago, a young local oncologist confidently assured me that eating sugar “has nothing to do with cancer”. More recently, I’ve noticed similar statements on the Mayo Clinic website. I think they may have called it, “the sugar myth”.
Let’s Explore This Idea…
1) Does sugar really feed cancer?
We know that cancer requires ten to twenty times more sugar than healthy tissue to produce the same amount of energy. This alone should end the debate for some people.
Most cancer cells have significantly more insulin receptors than their healthy counterparts. Insulin assists in the active transport of sugar into cells.
Most healthy cells do not require glucose as a fuel source! Cancer cells typically rely on an abundance of glucose in order to thrive. For technical details on this topic I recommend Thomas Seyfried’s book, Cancer as a Metabolic Disease.
Seyfried’s work suggests you can selectively starve cancer cells by maintaining a strict ketogenic (very low sugar) diet. This can be a tough diet to stick with, and it isn’t for everyone. But the science is there.
Processed foods don’t contain as many enzymes as raw foods. Enzymes help your body digest food, absorb nutrients, detoxify, and produce energy. All of these processes need to be working well to fight cancer naturally.
Enzymes can also help our immune cells- and chemotherapy drugs- gain access to solid tumors through a process historically referred to as “enzymatic de-shielding”.
3) Processed foods contain preservatives, artificial colors, artificial flavors, flavor enhancers, GMO wheat, soy, corn, and other things you don’t want to be putting in your body, even on your best day. So it’s not just about carbs and sugar, but also, the other things you’re getting if you eat processed foods.
4) Many of us have a hard time digesting wheat and similar grains effectively. In some people, this leads to conditions like full-blown celiac disease. In some people, eating wheat may interfere with digestion on a sub-clinical level. William Davis, MD wrote an entire book about this.
5) Processed sugar has been linked to significant decrease in immune function for several hours after consumption. If your immune system is trying to fight cancer, don’t get in its way! If you are taking chemo or using radiation therapy, this becomes especially important since those therapies also suppress the immune system.
6) Opportunity Cost: Every time we fill up on processed garbage, we’re missing an opportunity to fill up on real food. Over time, this depletes our body of energy and nutrients. With each meal, we choose whether to support disease or support health.
7) Processed sugars alter the hormone balance of our body in ways that tend to support cancer growth.
8) Fructose is processed by the liver as a toxin. Cancer is toxic. Chemo is toxic. Don’t throw fuel on the fire.
9) All that said: if you love a sweet treat from time to time, be kind to yourself! Sometimes we need a break. You might consider using real maple syrup or raw local honey instead of sugar. I recommend trying some of the desserts in the book “Hungry for Health” available at the BeatCancer.org store.