There seems to be a lot of misinformation on the internet and through word of mouth regarding cancer and how sugar and insulin interact with tumors. I've even heard bad information passed from health care providers on to cancer patients. When it comes to sugar, insulin and cancer you have to know the facts!
Insulin is a protein hormone produced in your body. After eating any kind of carbohydrate (found in desserts, sweetened drinks, fruits, milk, grains and starchy vegetables), the pancreas produces insulin to move glucose (blood sugar) from the blood into cells all over the body. Glucose is what gives our cells energy to work; they cannot function without it.
If the cells do not respond to insulin, then the pancreas compensates by making even more insulin in order to force the cells to respond. As time goes on, it can take more and more insulin for the cells to take in glucose. In many undiagnosed pre-diabetes cases, blood sugars can measure normal but insulin levels are high.
Some people will get their insulin levels checked to see if they are high. Sometimes that can be helpful in knowing if the blood sugars are normal because the body is functioning correctly or if it's because there is extra insulin being produced. However, it's unlikely that your doctor would check your insulin level unless you have a family history of diabetes or signs of blood sugar problems.
Sugar and Cancer
I've done topics on this before ('Does Sugar Feed Cancer Part I and Part II). But there is constantly new research coming out that can help us see the bigger picture. It is still true that sugar does not directly cause cancer and removing sugar from a person's diet won't prevent cancer.
The problem with sugar is when we eat the not so healthy sugar foods like sodas, sweet tea, cakes, cookies and fruit flavored drinks. High sugar foods are absorbed quickly and cause insulin to rise quickly. This 'spike' results in cells using the sugar for energy or storing it as fat.
When someone consumes excessive amounts of empty calories, the fat builds up and insulin resistance can occur which increases risk of pre-diabetes, diabetes and cancer.
Types of Sugar
The type of carbohydrate consumed makes a big difference when it comes to insulin response. By choosing healthy carbohydrates, like whole grains, low-fat milk, whole fruits and vegetables, you can avoid an insulin spike because these foods come with other nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that assist the body in metabolizing the food.
The Bottom Line
Your choices in carbohydrates and sugars can make a big difference in the health of your body. Switch to whole grain breads, cereals, rice and pasta along with eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. And when you choose a beverage, pick one that's not sweetened with any forms of sugar. Learn to appreciate the flavor of an unsweetened tea or plain old water!