Does Sugar Feed Cancer?
Updated: Feb 28, 2020
November 14, 2017
Laura Hering, RDN, LD, Emily Sillies, Dietetic Intern
In recent years, a belief has been stirred up that cancer growth is fueled by sugar consumption. This concern comes from a reasonable place but focuses on a very small portion of a big picture. Every cell in your body uses sugar, namely glucose, as its energy source. Even in diets where sugars or carbohydrates are minimal, our bodies have alternate metabolic pathways programmed to convert other macronutrients (protein and fat) into glucose to keep cells alive and functioning.
Cancer cells act in the same way, but they also have mechanisms in place to grow more rapidly by producing more energy or “ATP.”
When weighing the pros and cons of including sugar in the diet, it’s important to keep in mind how the body fuels itself. By limiting the fuel sources found in your diet, you could potentially leave your body with less than what it needs to remain fueled and strong when you need it most.
If you remove or significantly reduce the amount of carbohydrates in your diet, your body must rely primarily on protein and fat to be converted into glucose for energy via alternate metabolic pathways. The alternate pathways are generally less efficient means of generating energy which can lead to nutritional deficits. Poor nutrition and not consuming enough calories and protein can leave you with a loss of muscle mass and weight during a time in which it’s critical to keep these areas of your health stable.
Simply put, the main focus should be put on consuming adequate calories and protein when you’re sick and undergoing treatment. Getting energy to your cells is your body’s first priority. Due to the body’s ability to create glucose from other substrates, whether you consume sugar or not, it will be sugar that fuels your body’s cells. You want to make sure that it does not have to tap into your body’s reserves to find fuel.
The team here at Infinit Wellness has extensively researched the topic of sugar and carbohydrate consumption in people diagnosed with cancer. We have reviewed the research and literature on the subject, and we support the inclusion of carbohydrates (and simple sugars in moderation) in a balanced diet for patients undergoing cancer treatment. We also understand that food aversions, nausea, and various side effects of treatment and disease can prevent individuals from consuming optimal nutrition. In these cases, it is important to supplement the diet with oral nutrition formulas in order to maintain optimal nutrition and weight to maintain the strength to fight.
RESTORE by Infinit Wellness allows you to supplement a balanced diet with additional energy, protein, and nutrients that will help fuel your personal fight.
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Onodera, Y., Nam, J., & Bissell, M. (2013). Increased sugar uptake promotes oncogenesis via EPAC/RAP1 and O-GlcNAc pathways. Journal of Clinical Investigation J. Clin. Invest., 124(1), 367-384. Retrieved August 14, 2015.