Sugar and Cancer
Originally printed by The Alternative Research Foundation
It puzzles me why the simple concept “sugar feeds cancer” can be so dramatically overlooked as part of a comprehensive cancer treatment plan.
Of the 4 million cancer patients being treated in
By slowing the cancer’s growth, patients allow their immune systems and medical debulking therapies–chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to reduce the bulk of the tumor mass–to catch up to the disease. Controlling one’s blood-glucose levels through diet, supplements, exercise, meditation and prescription drugs when necessary can be one of the most crucial components to a cancer recovery program. The sound bite–sugar feeds cancer–is simple. The explanation is a little more complex.
The 1931 Nobel laureate in medicine, German Otto Warburg, Ph.D., first discovered that cancer cells have a fundamentally different energy metabolism compared to healthy cells. The crux of his Nobel thesis was that malignant tumors frequently exhibit an increase in anaerobic glycolysis – – a process whereby glucose is used as a fuel by cancer cells with lactic acid as an anaerobic byproduct – – compared to normal tissues.
The large amount of lactic acid produced by this fermentation of glucose from cancer cells is then transported to the liver. This conversion of glucose to lactate generates a lower, more acidic pH in cancerous tissues as well as overall physical fatigue from lactic acid buildup. Thus, larger tumors tend to exhibit a more acidic pH.
This inefficient pathway for energy metabolism yields only 2 moles of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) energy per mole of glucose, compared to 38 moles of ATP in the complete aerobic oxidation of glucose. By extracting only about 5 percent (2 vs. 38 moles of ATP) of the available energy in the food supply and the body’s calorie stores, the cancer is “wasting” energy, and the patient becomes tired and undernourished. This vicious cycle increases body wasting.
It is one reason why 40 percent of cancer patients die from malnutrition, or cachexia. Hence, cancer therapies should encompass regulating blood-glucose levels via diet, supplements, non-oral solutions for cachectic patients who lose their appetite, medication, exercise, gradual weight loss and stress reduction. Professional guidance and patient self-discipline are crucial at this point in the cancer process. The quest is not to eliminate sugars or carbohydrates from the diet but rather to control blood glucose within a narrow range to help starve the cancer and bolster immune function.
The glycemic index is a measure of how a given food affects blood-glucose levels, with each food assigned a numbered rating. The lower the rating, the slower the digestion and absorption process, which provides a healthier, more gradual infusion of sugars into the bloodstream. Conversely, a high rating means blood-glucose levels are increased quickly, which stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin to drop blood-sugar levels. This rapid fluctuation of blood-sugar levels is unhealthy because of the stress it places on the body
Sugar in the Body and Diet
Sugar is a generic term used to identify simple carbohydrates, which includes monosaccharides such as fructose, glucose and galactose; and disaccharides such as maltose and sucrose (white table sugar). Think of these sugars as different-shaped bricks in a wall. When fructose is the primary monosaccharide brick in the wall, the glycemic index registers as healthier, since this simple sugar is slowly absorbed in the gut, then converted to glucose in the liver. This makes for “time-release foods,” which offer a more gradual rise and fall in blood-glucose levels.
If glucose is the primary monosaccharide brick in the wall, the glycemic index will be higher and less healthy for the individual. As the brick wall is torn apart in digestion, the glucose is pumped across the intestinal wall directly into the bloodstream, rapidly raising blood-glucose levels. In other words, there is a “window of efficacy” for glucose in the blood: levels too low make one feel lethargic and can create clinical hypoglycemia; levels too high start creating the rippling effect of diabetic health problems.
The 1997 American Diabetes Association blood-glucose standards consider 126 mg glucose/dL blood or greater to be diabetic; 111 to 125 mg/dL is impaired glucose tolerance and less than 110 mg/dL is considered normal. Meanwhile, the Paleolithic diet of our ancestors, which consisted of lean meats, vegetables and small amounts of whole grains, nuts, seeds and fruits, is estimated to have generated blood glucose levels between 60 and 90 mg/dL.
Obviously, today’s high-sugar diets are having unhealthy effects as far as blood-sugar is concerned. Excess blood glucose may initiate yeast overgrowth, blood vessel deterioration, heart disease and other health conditions.
Understanding and using the glycemic index is an important aspect of diet modification for cancer patients. However, there is also evidence that sugars may feed cancer more efficiently than starches (comprised of long chains of simple sugars), making the index slightly misleading. A study of rats fed diets with equal calories from sugars and starches, for example, found the animals on the high-sugar diet developed more cases of breast cancer.
The glycemic index is a useful tool in guiding the cancer patient toward a healthier diet, but it is not infallible. By using the glycemic index alone, one could be led to thinking a cup of white sugar is healthier than a baked potato. This is because the glycemic index rating of a sugary food may be lower than that of a starchy food. To be safe, I recommend less fruit, more vegetables, and little to no refined sugars in the diet of cancer patients.
What the Literature Says
A mouse model of human breast cancer demonstrated that tumors are sensitive to blood-glucose levels. Sixty-eight mice were injected with an aggressive strain of breast cancer, then fed diets to induce either high blood-sugar (hyperglycemia), normoglycemia or low blood-sugar (hypoglycemia). There was a dose-dependent response in which the lower the blood glucose, the greater the survival rate. After 70 days, 8 of 24 hyperglycemic mice survived compared to 16 of 24 normoglycemic and 19 of 20 hypoglycemic.
This suggests that regulating sugar intake is key to slowing breast tumor growth.
In a human study, 10 healthy people were assessed for fasting blood-glucose levels and the phagocytic index of neutrophils, which measures immune-cell ability to envelop and destroy invaders such as cancer. Eating 100 g carbohydrates from glucose, sucrose, honey and orange juice all significantly decreased the capacity of neutrophils to engulf bacteria. Starch did not have this effect.
A four-year study at the National Institute of Public Health and Environmental Protection in the
Furthermore, an epidemiological study in 21 modern countries that keep track of morbidity and mortality (Europe, North America,
Limiting sugar consumption may not be the only line of defense. In fact, an interesting botanical extract from the avocado plant (Persea
Since cancer cells derive most of their energy from anaerobic glycolysis, Joseph Gold, M.D., director of the Syracuse (N.Y.) Cancer Research Institute and former U.S. Air Force research physician, surmised that a chemical called hydrazine sulfate, used in rocket fuel, could inhibit the excessive gluconeogenesis (making sugar from amino acids) that occurs in cachectic cancer patients. Gold’s work demonstrated hydrazine sulfate’s ability to slow and reverse cachexia in advanced cancer patients. A placebo-controlled trial followed 101 cancer patients taking either 6 mg hydrazine sulfate three times/day or placebo. After one month, 83 percent of hydrazine sulfate patients increased their weight, compared to 53 percent on placebo.
A similar study by the same principal researchers, partly funded by the National Cancer Institute in
The medical establishment may be missing the connection between sugar and its role in tumorigenesis. Consider the million-dollar positive emission tomography device, or PET scan, regarded as one of the ultimate cancer-detection tools. PET scans use radioactively labeled glucose to detect sugar-hungry tumor cells. PET scans are used to plot the progress of cancer patients and to assess whether present protocols are effective.
SCMT was tested on 103 patients with metastasized cancer or recurrent primary tumors in a clinical phase-I study at the Von Ardenne Institute of Applied Medical Research in
The protocol induces rapid growth of the cancer, then treats the tumor with toxic therapies for a dramatic improvement in outcome.
The irrefutable role of glucose in the growth and metastasis of cancer cells can enhance many therapies. Some of these include diets designed with the glycemic index in mind to regulate increases in blood glucose, hence selectively starving the cancer cells; low-glucose TPN solutions; avocado extract to inhibit glucose uptake in cancer cells; hydrazine sulfate to inhibit gluconeogenesis in cancer cells; and SCMT.
A female patient in her 50s, with lung cancer, came to our clinic, having been given a death sentence by her
DR. MERCOLA’S COMMENT: Nearly all of us are addicted to sugar. There is not one single food item that is generally more damaging to health. The problem is that most of us are addicted to it. The Hellers in their book, Carbohydrate Addicts, discuss the evidence supporting this link. I do not agree with their one hour reward meal, but otherwise the book helps one understand the depth of this problem.
The Sugar Blues by William Dufty is now over 25 years old and is also an excellent reference documenting the problems with sugar.