Many people have heard the statement that “sugar feeds cancer”. I have had patients whose friends, family or other source told them to completely avoid sugar. This series of posts will hopefully set the record straight regarding what we know about sugar and cancer!
The Facts About Sugar and Cancer
Our bodies need sugar, specifically glucose, for energy. Every cell of our body, especially the brain, needs sugar to live. The sugar that we need comes from 2 places. One is from the carbohydrate that we eat. The second is from our body. Our body will make the sugar we need if we don’t get enough from our food.
Therefore, even if you cut out all intake of sugar or other form of carbohydrate, your body will make the sugar you need from fat and protein. This is not the ideal situation for your body, as it can cause your body to go into a stressful state. There is a certain amount of carbohydrate that is important for healthy cell function.
Cancer cells use sugar for energy just like the rest of our body. But there’s nothing about the cancer that “feeds” on sugar more than any other cell in our body.
Sugar and Insulin
When we digest and absorb sugar from different types of foods, our bodies produce insulin to process the sugar. This is a normal and essential part of metabolizing food. However, if you eat too much sugar or carbohydrate, it results in a large amount of insulin being produced.
Insulin tells our cells to grow. Too much insulin can tell our cells to grow too much. Some people think that too much insulin could cause cancer cells to grow more. There’s not enough research right now to fully understand how insulin and cancer are related, but we know that too much sugar, and too much insulin is not good for our health.
Sugar does feed cancer. BUT, sugar also feeds the rest of your body. For those who are going through treatment, remember that your healthy cells need energy especially during this time. Avoiding sugar completely will not help treatment, but it could leave your healthy cells low on energy.
My next post will address the various sources of sugar and how you can make the healthiest choices when it comes to your risk for disease. More from me on Friday!
reference: (Some information for this post came from Caring4Cancer).
Marjorie Monath says
Radioactive I.V.s for PET scans contain sugar because sugar binds with cancer cells and can therefore be visualized on the PET scan. Do you think this is why people think sugar feeds cancer?
Julie Lanford MPH, RD, CSO, LDN says
I think a more accurate statement would be to say that cancer cells metabolize sugar faster than the other cells of the body, and the fast rate of metabolism is what the PET scan is picking up. It’s not that sugar only goes to the cancer cells. It goes to all the cells.