Elevated blood sugar is linked to increased risk of cancer.
We all know that sugar is linked to obesity and obesity is linked to increased risk of premature death from different causes. Today I would like to highlight the link between sugar and increased risk of cancer.
According to recent research 1 in 7 people in Europe and 1 in 5 in the USA are dying prematurely because of obesity. Money wise, sugar consumption is and its main derivatives (obesity, diabetes and cancer) is directly responsible for 40% of all healthcare expenditure. Basically, when you eat cheap (quality) food you’re likely to pay a high price for it.
Our diet (what we eat and drink) is a major component when it comes to obesity and related health conditions such as elevated blood sugar, insulin resistance and cancer. Obesity can promote cancer and other chronic diseases by causing mitochondrial dysfunction. The mitochondria is the little engine that powers each and every one of our cells and sugar is far from being the ideal fuel for it because it burns ‘dirty’ (creating a lot more reactive oxygen species compared to metabolised fat). As a result a large amount of free radicals is created which causes damage to the mitochondria and nuclear DNA, as well as cell membrane and protein impairment. What this basically boils down to is that it’s not nuclear genetic defects that cause cancer. Instead, mitochondrial damage comes first and triggers nuclear genetic mutations.
Similarly, overeating has a similar effect because regularly eating more than the body needs stresses the endoplasmic reticulum (the membranous network inside the mitochondria) with over supply of nutrients. This in turn promotes insulin resistance which is at the heart of most chronic diseases, including cancer.
The majority of people who overeat and/or are obese tend to eat sugary food which as noted above promotes elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance. In reality that doubles cancer risk compared with consuming whole, unprocessed food. Why is that? Because cancer cells are primarily fueled by the burning of sugar anaerobically. Take the sugar away, and most cancer cells will lack the metabolic flexibility to survive. And that is good! Unlike healthy cells, cancer cells lack the metabolic flexibility to adapt from using glucose to using ketone bodies from dietary fats. So when you stop feeding them with sugar you effectively starving the cancer cells. This is why nutritional ketosis is an effective method to fight cancer.
However, to complete the picture I will try to explain the connection with genetics.
Although genetic defects are not the main reason for cancer, genes do come into it. There appear to be a number of genes who are known to promote cancer by influencing cell division (including a gene known as AKT), which also regulate the consumption of nutrients by the cells. Simply put, certain genes appear to be responsible for the over consumption of sugar by cancer cells. Whereas healthy cells benefit from a mechanism that conserves resources when there’s a lack of supply of nutrients, cancer cells don’t have this mechanism and feed continuously.
What all this boils down to is that overeating leads to obesity which leads to insulin resistance which is a key contributor to increased risk of cancer, and many studies have confirmed that type 2 diabetics are at a greater risk. Even prediabetes is a risk factor for cancer. If you understand the mechanism of most cancers this is unlikely to be surprising to you (essentially cancer cells are being fueled by a metabolism that is driven by glucose, generating mass of free radicals by creating a lot more reactive oxygen species).
In one of my next blog entries I will talk about ketogenic diet and fasting for cancer recovery.
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