The Role of Sugar and Acids in Cancer
Sugar and acids are vilified for their perceived roles in feeding cancer cells and helping them spread throughout the body. However, this oversimplification of how cancer grows and spreads can be misleading because it can lead to highly restricted diets that may do more harm than good.
It doesn’t help that the online community is riddled with misinformation and myths about certain food groups in their search for a scapegoat. But do sugars and acids really cause cancer and make them grow at an accelerated pace?
Let’s take a hard look at the science behind cancer and what role, if any, is played by sugar and acids in assisting their growth.
The Anatomy of Cancer
Cancer itself is a very complicated disease that often develops due to a wide range of reasons, including a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Simply put, cancer can be described as ‘unregulated cell growth’ caused by genetic factors. The main types of genes that are known for causing cancers include tumor suppressor genes, DNA repair genes, and proto-oncogenes.
Proto-oncogenes are responsible for the healthy growth of cells as well as their division. When these genes are altered in certain ways, they can become cancer-causing genes, where they allow cancers to survive and thrive.
Tumor suppressor genes are known for their role in controlling the growth of cells and their divisions. Cells that have their tumor suppressors altered may divide uncontrollably.
DNA repair genes are involved in repairing damaged DNA. Certain mutations in these cells can lead to changes in their chromosomes, such as deletion or duplication of chromosome parts. These mutations can cause their cells to become cancerous.
In this entire discussion, sugar and acids are merely used as a source of fuel for cancer cells. By rooting out sugar and acids from your diet, you may not necessarily be fixing the root cause of the cancer. For instance, by eliminating sugar from your diet, you aren't accounting for the fact that the cancer may be caused by genetic mutations in your DNA repair genes.
What Does the Science Say about Sugar
Sugar is the fuel unit for life itself. Both healthy and malignant cells feed on sugar to grow. In other words, by eliminating sugar from your diet, you may as well be depriving your healthy cells of a fuel source.
Sugar itself is available in various forms, including glucose and fructose. These simple molecules have the ability to form long pairs of molecules, known as carbohydrates, the main source of energy for the body.
Sugars with longer chains lose their sweet taste, unlike table sugar with a smaller chain. Sugar chains that are too long to dissolve in water are known as polysaccharides. Food sources such as vegetables, pasta, and bread contain polysaccharides.
The body’s cells need energy to function, and their basic fuel is glucose. If we eat or drink food, the glucose from the food gets absorbed into the blood so that our cells can use them for fuel. Starchy foods such as pasta are broken down by saliva and digestive fluids to help the body convert them into glucose.
And if we deprive the body of sugar, our cells will convert fat and protein into glucose as a last resort to survive. This means that no matter what you do, your body will almost always find a way to use glucose, even if that means tapping into its own fat reservoirs.
The problem with cancer is that it also uses glucose to multiply at a fast rate. But that’s not all. Cancer will also consume acids, such as amino acids and fatty acids, to grow at a faster rate.
At the time of writing, there is almost no evidence to support the hypothesis that eliminating sugar from one’s diet lowers the risk of getting cancer or improves survivability after getting diagnosed.
With that said, there is an indirect link between one’s risk of getting diagnosed with cancer and eating lots of sugar. The link is indirect because eating a lot of sugar can cause you to gain excess weight. Research shows that individuals who are overweight have an increased risk of getting diagnosed with various types of cancers.
In other words, the discussion should be focused more on managing a healthy body weight as opposed to eliminating certain food groups, including sugars, from one’s diet.
The Role of Acids in Cancer
Much like sugars, acids, such as amino acids and fatty acids, also provide energy for cancer cells to not only survive but also thrive. Researchers have observed abnormal fatty acid metabolism in many types of cancers.
One researcher from the Laboratory of Systems Cancer Biology likens cancer to building a Lego set. You need access to all the ‘bricks’ in the Lego set to build a model plane. Removing certain bricks from the set will make it impossible to build the plane.
This is where acids, especially amino acids like arginine, come in. For example, arginine plays an important role in protein synthesis and nitrogen waste disposal It’s also been shown to influence how immune cells react to cancer cells.
So does the answer lie in depriving your body of essential amino acids? Much like sugars, the answer is more complicated than a simplistic ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Eliminating acids from the body would lead to a slew of health problems, including ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.
How to ‘Starve’ Cancer Cells
The selective elimination of certain food groups that contain vital nutrients such as sugars and acids should only be carried out by trained dietitians and doctors. Although it makes sense to starve cancer cells of vital nutrients, doing so can also harm healthy cells needed for the proper function of the human body.
In practice, the best way to prevent cancer, or to improve one’s chances of beating and surviving cancer, is to adopt a balanced approach to life. Excessive consumption of any food group, whether it’s certain sugars or acids, can increase one’s risk of developing certain cancers.
The lesson we can learn from countless research studies is that moderation - whether in eating certain food groups or eliminating them - is key to success.
Additionally, some studies have shown that certain compounds found in foods and supplements can also induce mitophagy in cancer cells. You can try Ultrapome by Rawleigh – a blend of pomegranate extracts, prebiotics, and probiotics that promote cell regeneration as well as mitochondrial and muscle function. It comes in a bottle of 30 capsules; the recommended dose is just one capsule.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. It is recommended that a physician be consulted before taking any supplements. Results not typical and may vary.