The Link Between Sugar and Cancer

These days we are all looking at ways to eat better and to stay healthy. Whether it’s to lose weight or to avoid heart disease and other medical problems, cutting out sugar is usually high on the list. While cutting out sugar may help you lose weight, can it also prevent cancer? The answer depends on who you ask.

Some in the medical field say you can lower your risk of developing cancer by reducing the amount of sugar you eat. Why? According to some, cancer cells uptake sugar ten to twelve times the rate of healthy cells. In simple terms they are saying that sugar feeds cancer.


They also say we need to be aware of sugar’s impact on the immune system.  Sugar suppresses an immune response known as phagocytosis. If you consume just 10 teaspoons of sugar, it can cause a 50% reduction in phagocytosis. If you think about all the sugar that is in the foods you eat everyday…cereal, yogurt, cookies, etc., you know you are consuming much more than 10 teaspoons of sugar. By suppressing your immune system, it is obviously easier for you to become sick and harder to get better.

A study done earlier this year by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center found that diets high in sugar are a major risk of cancers, especially breast cancer. They gave mice different levels of sugar compared to what is found in the Western diet, a.k.a. what a lot of Americans eat. After six months, the mice who consumed these sugar levels had an increase in tumor growth, as well as the spread of lung cancer. It is research like this that leads many to believe there is indeed a link between sugar and cancer. Some even go so far as to say that sugar is cancer’s favorite food.

On the flip side, others insist there is no link between sugar and cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, sugar does not make cancer cells grow faster. They base their research on the misunderstanding of PET scans to detect cancer.


The PET scans typically use a form of glucose. According to the Mayo Clinic, “All tissues in your body absorb some of this tracer, but tissues that are using more energy, including cancer cells, absorb greater amounts. For this reason, some people have concluded that cancer cells grow faster on sugar.”

While there has not been a direct link between sugar and cancer, The Dana Farber Institute reports that the risk of prostate, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers may be most influenced by sugar. Research shows men with a high glycemic index diet were 26% more likely to develop prostate cancer.

Taking all the research into consideration, it is never a bad idea to limit the amount of sugar intake. We all know too much sugar can lead to weight gain and in turn other health problems. We also know too much sugar can slow you down and make you feel sluggish. So, even if for those reasons alone, limiting the amount of sugar you have on a daily basis is a good idea.

As always if you are thinking of changing your diet, always consult your doctor first so you can devise a plan that works best for you.



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