Patients with diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, are at high risk of developing certain types of cancer. This figure leads many people to conclude that diabetes involves a biological mechanism that increases the risk of developing cancer. As a result, people who are at risk for cancer may completely avoid all foods and beverages that contain sugar to reduce the chances of cancer.
Sometimes extreme dietary changes can be harmful to the body, due to a reduction in the consumption of foods rich in nutrients that have been proven to fight cancer such as fruits and whole grains. Extreme changes in eating habits can also increase mental stress and cause the immune system to weaken.
Do not avoid, yes reduce
One of the common hypotheses about the link between sugar and cancer concerns the hormone insulin, which is secreted by the pancreas in response to high blood sugar levels, and causes glucose to enter the body’s cells. In the body of type 2 diabetics, the pancreas produces insulin, but the cells do not respond to it and blood sugar levels remain high. Insulin also functions as a growth hormone, and may have an effect that encourages cancerous growths.
In fact, sugar comes in many forms. The simplest form in which it appears is in a single molecule, such as glucose and fructose. These molecules of simple sugars can stick together, in pairs or as longer chains of molecules. All combinations of molecules are carbohydrates, and are the main source of energy for our body.
Cells need to turn nutrients in our diet into an energy form that they can use, the process begins with glucose which is the basic fuel that drives each of our cells. If we eat or drink things rich in glucose, like fizzy drinks, the glucose is absorbed directly into our blood and ready to use. If the menu contains starchy foods, such as pasta, the enzymes in saliva and our digestive juices break it down and convert it into glucose. And if for some reason there are no carbohydrates in our diet, cells can turn fat and protein into glucose as a last resort because they need glucose to survive.
At this point sugar and cancer begin to collide, because cancer is a disease that occurs in cells. Cancer cells usually grow quickly and multiply at a rapid rate, which requires a lot of energy, which means they need a lot of glucose. Cancer cells also need a lot of other nutrients, like amino acids and fats. Here was born the myth that sugar nourishes cancer, because if cancer cells need a lot of glucose, then cutting the sugar from our diet must help slow the growth of the cancer, and can even stop its development in the first place.
But unfortunately, it is not that simple. All of our healthy cells also need glucose, and there is no way to tell our body to let healthy cells get the glucose they need, but not transfer it to cancer cells. Glucose is the fuel of our body and is needed for almost every process in the body. When the supply of available glucose sources in the diet is avoided, the body is forced to use other components and turn them into glucose. Thus, the body will break down protein and instead of using it to strengthen the body, the protein will be “wasted” in breaking it down into energy components. Therefore, the fact that cancer cells consume sugar is not a reason to completely stop the supply of sugar, because sugar is also needed for the survival of other cells in our body.
The indirect link between sugar and cancer
An indirect link has also been found between cancer risk and sugar intake. Eating too much sugar over time can lead to weight gain, and scientific evidence shows that being overweight or obese increases the risk of 13 different types of cancer. In fact, obesity is the only preventable factor.
To avoid an increase in blood sugar, one should not avoid all foods that contain sugar, no less important is what is combined with the sweet side. If you eat protein, fat and fiber along with the simplest sugars, these three items help the body produce less insulin in response to simple sugar.
Here’s how to reduce sugar during the day:
- Less simple sugars – sweets, cakes, pies, pastries, white bread and white rice.
- Reducing consumption of sugary drinks, including fruit juice and soda.
- Use natural sugar, like the sugar found in fruits. The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and many fibers they contain will do good to the body.
- The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of sugar to 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day for women and 37 grams (9 teaspoons) per day for men. For example, one can of cola contains 29 grams (7 teaspoons).