Sugar and resultant obesity are linked to high risk of cancer, which is gradually being realized. Obesity is in fact said to be associated with high risk of death from a multitude of factors.
According to a 2013 research study, about 20% deaths are related to obesity. Overall, having more weight is likely to reduce your life expectancy by close to one year. On the other hand, being moderately obese may lead to a reduction of three years from your life expectancy, while those with normal weight have the highest life expectancy and are the lowest risk group.
In view of these facts, the financial burden of treating the consequences of excessive sugar consumption are heavy as well. As per the Credit Suisse Research Institute’s 2013 study titled Sugar Consumption at a Crossroads, 40% of US health care expenditure goes towards financing treatment of diseases caused by consumption of sugar.
Thus, though processed foods with sugary flavor may be low priced, they result in a heavy cost on the economy as a whole.
Diet influences your cancer risk
Diet plays an important role in making your obese and causes health problems such as high blood sugar, insulin resistance and cancer. Studies show that obesity is responsible for cancer and it causes the disease in different ways.
How sugar causes cancer
Sugar affects the normal function of mitochondria – the energy generating part in the cell. Sugar is said to cause more reactive oxygen species (ROS) as compared to fat. This causes a high number of free radicals when sugar is consumed in excess. The excess freed radicals cause damage to mitochondria and DNA, the cell membrane and protein.
Therefore, cancer is not because of genetic defects in the nucleus in the cells as is popularly believed. The damage to mitochondria caused by excess sugar leads to abnormal changes in the nucleus.
Further, chronic overeating also leads to similar cancer-causing effect because it heightens the workload on endoplasmic reticulum (ER). ER is a membranous network located in the mitochondria in the cells.
How ER affects
When the ER gets more nutrients than its capacity to process, it directs the cells to cause the sensitivity of insulin receptors (on the surface of the cell) to be weakened.
Therefore, chronically consuming food more than your body needs leads to insulin resistance just because the cells need more energy because of the excess workload to absorb the excess nutrients. Insulin resistance is the root cause of many chronic diseases including cancer.
Insulin resistance is the decreased ability of cells to respond to insulin for glucose transportation from blood to muscles and other tissues in the body. Insulin is generated by the pancreas, and keeps the level of glucose in the body in check.
Sugar, the prime culprit in causing cancer
Overeating leads to more consumption of sugar-loaded foods. This leads to high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. Therefore, overeating sugar loaded foods leads to a higher risk as against overheating whole and unprocessed foods. Recent research studies have found sugar to be the top factor that leads to cancer throughout the world. According to a report on global cancer burden published in 2014, as many as 500,000 cancer deaths each year were because of obesity. This is because the cancer cells grow mainly by consuming sugar without oxygen. And, without sugar cancer cells die.
Normal healthy cells can adjust to glucose levels using ketone bodies from fats. On the other hand, most cancer cells can’t use ketone bodies, and therefore, when you reduce sugar consumption cancer cells fail to survive. It is for this reason that ketosis associated with nutrition is an effective method to treat cancer. A recent study from University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center shows that refined sugar worsens the risk of breast cancer as well as causes spread of tumors to other organs in the body.
The principal sugar is refined fructose in high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) used in most processed foods and beverages. The refined fructose causes breast tumors and the metastasis (spread of cancer to other parts in the body).
How far are genetics, proteins and hormones responsible?
Genetic factors are not the main factors causing cancer; genes can, however, also play a role. Research studies show that there are many genes that can lead to cancer by impacting cell division. These genes include AKT, which regulates consumption of nutrients by cells. And a particular set of genes plays a role in causing excess consumption of sugar. Compared to healthy cells that have a mechanism to store the excess food and use it when there’s a deficiency, cancer cells lack the mechanism and feed continuously.
Recent studies show that overweight women who lost weight reduced their cancer risk by lowering cancer-linked proteins. These proteins are VEGF, PAI-1 and PEDF and are responsible for building blood vessels that tumors need to grow. When you lose more weight, there’s higher reduction in these proteins.
Research also shows that losing weight helps reduce the risk of cancer of breast, colon and prostate by 20%. This is because of the decrease of the aforesaid proteins (VEGF, PAI-1 and PEDF) and other compounds in fat cells. Obesity is also responsible for excess production of hormones, such as estrogen associated with elevated risk of breast cancer.
Stronger link between diabetes and cancer
Insulin resistance is found to be a key factor causing the risk of cancer, and several studies have come to the conclusion that individuals with type 2 diabetes are a high-risk group.
A recent study on one million adult cancer patients shows that those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes have a higher likelihood (23%) for cancer diagnosis throughout the decade before the onset of diabetes, as against 11.12% among those who didn’t have diabetes.
Research also shows that an increasing number of obese Americans has poor control on blood sugar. This has increased the number of patients suffering from type 2 diabetes and related health conditions. To arrest this trend, researchers reportedly advise overweight individuals to make “serious weight loss efforts.”
According to a report published in WebMd, during 1988-2014 the rate of diabetes increased from 11% to 19%. This was because of high blood sugar. Further, the rate of obese adults not having the three risk factors for heart disease, namely diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol was 15% throughout the period. However, the rate of obese adults with risk factors increased to 37%. And the risk of having all the three factors is high among those aged 40 and above.
According to Dr Joel Zonszein, Director, Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center, measures to ‘intervene early and prevent diabetes by encouraging weight loss, leading to a healthier and more productive life, need to be seriously taken.
Individuals with prediabetes are at risk as well
Research shows that even those with pre-diabetes are at the risk of cancer. More than one third Americans aged 20 and older have prediabetes. Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood glucose level is higher than normal but you’re not yet diagnosed as having full-blown diabetes. 15% to 30% among those with prediabetes are likely to develop type 2 diabetes within five years.
A related analysis on 900,000 people was published in 2014, which shows that those with prediabetes have a 15% greater risk of getting cancer, particularly of the liver, stomach, pancreas, breast and endometrium.
Another research shows that individuals with a high insulin level when diagnosed with cancer have a high risk of recurrence of cancer. They are also likely to be at a greater risk of being diagnosed with a certain kind of cancer.
In this diet, net carbs (total carbs less fiber) are replaced with moderate quantities of high-quality protein and high quantities of useful fat. Cancer cells need glucose to survive and carbs without fiber change into glucose, cutting down the consumption of net carbs, thus leaving the cancer cells without food. Further, low protein food intake leads to minimization of mTOR pathway. This helps reduce cell division.
mTOR is a protein kinase that keeps cell growth, cell mobility, cell multiplication, protein making, transcription, and autophagy under check.
The diet would help bring your weight to normal level and improve your general health by converting the food from carb burning form to fat burning. This leads to better function of the mitochondria.
Fasting: How does fasting benefit cancer patients?
Fasting is an effective way to combat obesity and to ensure best mitochondrial function. This could help you combat cancer as well. A research group is waiting for the USFDA’s approval to use intermittent fasting as a supplementary therapy for cancer patients.
Intermittent fasting involves using methods of different diets in between fasting and non-fasting. Thus, when you’re on intermittent fasting, you eat at a designated time of the day and opt not to eat at other times.
A recent study by Valter Longo, Ph.D, published in Cancer Cell shows that fasting when you’re on chemotherapy improves cancer-destroying T cell activity, and thus boosts the effectiveness of the therapy.
According to the study, the most important factor for exposing cancer cells to the T cells is the effect on the enzyme heme oxygnease-1. This enzyme is normally at high levels in cancer cells. Fasting cuts down oxygenase levels and leads to several changes, including the number of tumor-destroying cytotoxic T cells.
What to eat to ensure optimal health and prevent cancer?
You can prevent cancer by adopting the correct nutritional diet. You also need to avoid exposing yourself to toxins; consuming pastured organic food, particularly grass-fed or pastured meats and dairy products are said to be good.
The first point you need to consider is if you have insulin/leptin resistance, in which case you need to shun all forms of sugar or fructose and grain carbs. This helps prevent malignant transformation.
The basic thing you need to consider is to get rid of the issue in mitochondria. For this, you need to reduce the net carbs (without fiber) in your diet and replace them with high-quality fats. We have pointed out this before. It’s also important to moderate your consumption of protein and be careful with respect to quality of protein. Further, an excess amount of protein can also lead to cancer.
Healthy fats – 75% to 85% of total calories
Monosaturated and saturated fats are the healthy fats found in olives and olive oil, coconuts and coconut oil, butter from raw grass-fed organic milk, raw nuts such as macadamia, seeds including black sesame, black cumin, pumpkin and hemp seeds, avocado, ghee, raw cacao butter, organic pastured egg yolks, grass-fed meats, omega-3 fats, fish such as sardines and anchovies.
Fats that create harmful effects include trans fats, and polyunsaturated omega-6 vegetable oils (PUFAs). Glucose is not an ideal fuel as it makes far more ROS as compared to burning fats. However, for this, the cells have to be normal and healthy. As cancer cells can’t dissipate the fat because of lack of metabolic flexibility to burn, the quality of fat should be good to make it part of an anticancer strategy.
Carbohydrates should be 8% to 15% of your daily diet
Ensure that at least half of your carbs are fiber. Fiber is beneficial to health: in weight management and in lowering the risk of certain cancers.
Reduce your net carbs to less than 100g per day and limit fructose to 25g per day, and if you’re insulin resistant make it 15g a day. To fight cancer, you need to make your diet even more limited.
Reducing net carbs consumption will help you lower blood glucose, mTOR level, insulin and insulin growth factor (breast and other cancers).
Protein 7 % to 10% of total calories
Ensure that you consume high-quality protein, including grass-fed or pastured meats and animal products. Consume according to your lean body mass, which is for most people 40g to 70g of protein daily.
To determine the amount of protein your body needs, first find out your lean body mass. Subtract your body fat percentage from 100. Thus, if you have 25% body fat, you have 75% lean body mass. Multiply the percentage by current body weight so you get lean body mass in pounds/kilos.
Also, limit the protein to a significant extent because higher amounts cause speeding up of the mTOR pathway. mTOR is important in controlling many diseases including cancer. When you reduce protein, mTOR becomes less active. This helps minimize the chances of getting cancerous growth.
Diet plays a crucial role in preventing diabetes and cancer. It helps manage weight. Of course, diabetes leads to several changes in the blood circulation system, which opens ways for the onset of cancerous growth.