The Sunday Leader

Sugar Consumption Can Fuel Cancer

By Dr Harold Gunatillake 

Sugar is sweet and the body needs it to generate instant energy unlike the other macronutrients like fats and proteins. We need it like oxygen. However, a little is essential for life, but too much is toxic.

Researchers find that sugar is not as sweet when it comes to growth of cancer, and it boils down to fructose which is the culprit to feed cancer cells.

It was reported in the journal Cancer Research publication that people who eat lots of foods containing sugar have a higher risk of cancer, mostly, breast cancer in women.

This could be one of the reasons why the incidence of breast cancer among Sri Lankan and Indian women seem to be very significant.

The Pink Saree Project, launched in September 2014 in NSW, Australia consisting mainly of women of Sri Lankan and Indian origin revealed the importance of regular breast cancer screening for Indian and Sri Lankan ladies as the incidence of breast cancer affected one in eight women by the time they turn 85. The Pink Sari Project is already serving as a key community-led effort to encourage women in the target communities, particularly those aged between 50 and 74, to have a screening mammogram every two years.

It is also believed that it does not matter what you eat after you have been diagnosed with cancer, but research on animals suggests that it does matter, according to the research work done by Lorenzo Cohen of the University Of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

There are additional studies done that Western style diet is a major risk factor for many types of cancer. Such diets are the Fast foods a typical example of food consumed in a Western pattern diet, potato and French fry consumption and so on. Epidemiological studies have provided evidence suggesting an important role for diet and obesity in the development of cancer.

We find, in addition to cancer link with sugar, that when processed sugar foods are cut down from kid’s diets for short periods as nine days, they had lowered their blood pressures, cholesterol and blood sugars.

Sugar seems to promote and influence blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels in addition to the role played in cancers.

It is observed that most cancer patients die of metastatic disease (secondaries), than the primary growth. Those who eat sugary foods seem to get more advanced cancer and accelerate the event. Lorenzo Cohen’s team used mice genetically predisposed to breast cancer and fed them with sugar in doses very similar to what Americans eat daily. Those diets were heavy in starch or had different types of sugar

The studies found after six months that 30 percent of those fed a starch dominant diet developed breast cancer. The more sugar they were fed the bigger the cancer. Human studies revealed that people fed with dietary sucrose/fructose/glucose were predisposed and developed cancer, while a starch diet was not associated with increased risk of breast cancer.


Table sugar


Table sugar (sucrose) is composed of glucose and fructose. It is observed that fructose is treated in the liver and the glucose by the pancreas. Cohen revealed that when mice got more fructose, they grew larger tumours faster. His series of experiments proved that it was the fructose within the sucrose that accelerates tumourigenic process.

Any sugar will help to make cancer cells grow but fructose did it significantly more.

Records show that Americans consume about half a pound of fructose a year in 1970 to more than 62 pounds a year in 1997. This is because corn syrup high in fructose was used in beverages, cakes, cereal bars, frozen pizzas, canned fruits and other sweetened preparations. Corn syrup is a processed sweetener and food preservative from cornstarch. It increases the shelf life of foods for a low price, while maintaining a great taste.

It is reported that corn syrup is linked to obesity, learning ability and memory. It causes high blood pressure and also contains toxic mercury.


Fruits contain fructose


This cancer scare about fructose does not apply to fruits, because it’s mixed with fibre, other nutrients, including antioxidants.

There are no records that fructose in fruits accelerate the growth of cancer cells in the body. The World Health Organization says people should not try to get no more than 5 percent of calories from sugar.

It is recommended to eat less processed sugars.

Adult men should not consume more than 9 teaspoons sugar per day and women 6 teaspoons a day.

An average 12 ounces can of soda drink has 10 teaspoons of sugar.

It is revealed that eating too much sugar has killed 184,000 people a year in America.

In Sri Lanka, people take about 4 teaspoons of sugar in each cup of tea or coffee. The housewives and chefs use sugar freely in their curry preparations for added taste. Bombay sweets and similar other types of sweets are consumed heavily in Sri Lanka, revealed from the popular many confectionery and sweetmeat shops in most cities. Wellawatte in Colombo suburb is full of such shops and they are all flourishing. Consumers buy the sweets by the pounds.

Sri Lankans are not aware that consuming excess sugar is deleterious to their health.

 (TODAY Healthy Living newsletter and Maggie Fox from NBC News inspired me to write this article)



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