Everyone agrees, sugar is a villain. We have all heard that cancer cells are sugar junkies. We get the impression, and are told, that we need to starve cancer cells by depriving them of sugar. There is as much confusion in these statements as there is truth.
In his best-selling book Beating Cancer with Nutrition, Patrick Quillin, PhD, RD, CNS states: “I have yet to see a patient beat cancer who is not serious about controlling blood glucose through diet.”
This statement is based upon Dr. Quillin’s experience with thousands of cancer patients. Look carefully at his statement. It gives rise to two questions. What is blood glucose? How do you control it through diet?
To answer these questions it is important to differentiate between refined table sugar (sucrose), which is not in the bloodstream, and glucose. Glucose, known as “blood sugar,” is found in the bloodstream.
Refined sugar is made up of a molecule of the carbohydrate glucose bonded to a molecule of the carbohydrate fructose. When sucrose is digested, it is broken down into glucose and fructose. The glucose enters the blood stream and is the source of energy for all living cells.
Cancer cells feed on glucose (blood sugar) not on sucrose. You cannot starve a cancer cell of glucose because all cells in the body must have glucose to survive. It is the fuel used by brain cells. Neurons, unable to store glucose, depend on the bloodstream to deliver a constant supply of this precious fuel. Without glucose you would quickly go into a coma.
When discussing the effect of sugar (sucrose) on the growth of cancer cells and the efficiency of the immune system in attacking cancer, it is important to clarify the use of the word “sugar” to mean both sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup. They are essentially the same in their biological effects. Both are approximately 50% glucose and 50% fructose.
1. Refined White Sugar and High-Fructose Corn Syrup Suppress the Immune System.
Studies have shown that excess blood sugar has an immediate effect on natural killer and macrophage immune cells reducing their ability to attack and engulf cancer cells.
Immune cells require vitamin C to function properly, but refined sugar interferes with their ability to use vitamin C. As a result, the activity of white blood cells is slowed for several hours after refined sugar is digested.
Refined sugar increases the effect of stress on the body. Stress suppresses the ability of immune cells to respond.
2. Cancer Cells Have a Ferocious Appetite for Glucose.
Otto Henrich Warburg received the Nobel Prize for his work that led to the discovery that cancer cells have a fundamental difference in energy metabolism compared to healthy cells.
Metabolism is the conversion of fuel into energy. Normal body cells burn their fuel through a process known as cellular respiration. Normal cells use oxygen combined with fuel (glucose) to create energy.
Cancer cells create energy for their growth in a completely different manner. Cancer cells require the absence of oxygen for metabolism. Cancer cells convert fuel (glucose) into energy by the process of fermentation. Fermentation is an inefficient method of converting fuel to energy. Therefore, cancer cells need more glucose than healthy cells. They ravenously devour glucose to fuel their growth. In order to get the glucose that it needs, a cancer cell develops up to five times as many blood sugar receptor sites on the surface of its cell than normal healthy cells.
3. Sugar Is Addictive.
Your body develops cravings for sugar for various reasons.
- Cancer cells, because of their excessive need for glucose, release chemical messengers that cause you to have sugar cravings. These cancer cells demand you to supply them with more and more sugar to feed their growth.
- In times of stress, food becomes an emotional crutch. There is an adage that you eat your feelings. Carbohydrates form the building blocks for serotonin, the body’s “feel-good” hormone. Excess sugar causes a euphoric effect that triggers dopamine, the hormone that controls pleasure in the brain.
- Cravings can be caused by yeast overgrowth in your digestive track. Candidiasis (a yeast overgrowth) can arise when you have an imbalance of harmful bacteria in your gut over beneficial bacteria. This can be caused by improper diet, antibiotic use, and an oversupply of sugar. Candida (yeast) need sugar to survive so they signal your body to create a craving for simple carbohydrates – white processed foods and sugar..
4. Refined Processed White Sugar Has No Nutritional Value.
The source of table sugar (sucrose) is refined or processed sugar cane and sugar beets. During refining the sugar plant is stripped of its nutrients: vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, and dietary fiber. What remains is a combination of just glucose and fructose. The calories remain, but these are empty calories that have no nutritional value.
Allow Me to State It Bluntly. If you want to beat cancer and halt it from recurrence, Dr. Quillin is correct. You must get very serious about controlling blood glucose. I will discuss why and how to do this in the next several posts.
Do you know how to control blood glucose? How?