Ice cream sundaes slathered in chocolate and caramel syrup with a cherry on top – don't forget the whipped cream.  Breakfast cereal laden with tasty sugar coatings and sweet marshmallows.  German Chocolate cake, mom’s apple pie – ala mode, thin mints and who can turn down a tall cold glass of milk with a bag of chocolate chip cookies?

Just reading this makes your mouth water.  And your belly swell.  And your glucose levels soar.  Better yet, when you actually engage in all this sugary comfort eating, you lay the groundwork for a feeding frenzy for cancer cells in your body because they grow and flourish from sweet and tasty sugar.

No wonder nutritionists call sugar White Death.

Sugar feeds cancer.

A recent study, has identified sugar, not only as fuel source for an existing cancer, but as a primary driver in oncogenesis – or the cause for initiation of cancerous characteristics (phenotype) within previously healthy cells.

Published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers addressed a common perception (or misperception) in the cancer research community regarding sugar's relationship to cancer. This new study provides evidence that increased glycolytic activation itself can be an oncogenic event.  In plain English, the activation of sugar-based metabolism in a cell – driven by both the presence of increased quantities of glucose and the increase glucose receptors on the cell membrane surface – drives the start of cancer. Moreover, the study found that a reduction of glucose uptake by breast cancer cells led to phenotypic reversion. In other words, interfering with sugar availability and uptake to the cell causes the cancer cell to REVERSE towards its pre-cancer structure-function (phenotype).

This new research indicates that sugar is one of the primary causes of metabolic cell changes in the body consistent with the initiation and promotion of cancer. And, the research indicates that removing it from the diet, and depriving the cells of it, could REVERSE cancer.  Therefore, according to this study, while sugar can feed cancer, cutting out sugar can reverse the effect.

Cancer cells love sugar.

Sugar essentially feeds tumors and encourages cancer growth. Cancer cells uptake sugar at 10-12 times the rate of healthy cells.  In fact, this concept is the basis of PET (positron emission tomography) scans -- one of the most accurate tools for detecting cancer growth.  PET scans use radioactively labeled glucose to detect sugar-hungry tumor cells.  When patients drink the sugar water, it gets preferentially taken up into the cancer cells and they light up! The 1931 Nobel laureate in medicine, German Otto Warburg, PhD, discovered that cancer cells have a fundamentally different energy metabolism compared to healthy cells. He found that malignant tumors exhibit increased glycolysis -- a process whereby glucose is used as a fuel by cancer -- as compared with normal cells.

Warburg also found that cancers thrive in an acidic environment. Sugar is highly acidic.  With a pH of about 6.4, it is 10 times more acidic than the ideal alkaline pH of blood at 7.4.

Sugar is more addictive than cocaine. 

Eating sugar creates a surge of feel-good brain chemicals much like cocaine use. Sugar produces dopamine − a happy, feel-good chemical in the brain. 

Sugar breaks down collagen and ages the skin faster. 

Cutting back on sugar can help skin look younger for longer. The collagen and elastin fibers in the skin are affected by a lot of sugar in the bloodstream. Through a process called glycation, glucose attaches to proteins in the body. This includes collagen and elastin, the proteins found in connective tissues that are responsible for keeping skin smooth and taught. Studies have shown glycation makes it harder for these proteins to repair themselves, resulting in wrinkles and other signs of aging.

Sugar Destroys Teeth.

As your dentist has probably told you, eating a lot of sugar leads to tooth decay.  Oddly, the sugar itself doesn’t do any damage, but it sets off a chain of events that can. We have bacteria in our mouths that feed on the sugars that we eat. When this takes place it creates acids that can destroy tooth enamel. Once the tooth enamel is weakened, you’re more susceptible to tooth decay.

Grains and Sugars.  The correlation.  

It has been estimated by the USDA that the average American consumes 200 pounds of grain products annually. Why is this relevant to sugar and diet? 

Refined carbohydrate products – e.g. crackers, bread, pasta, cereal – are actually hidden forms of sugar. Puffed rice, for example, causes your blood to become sweeter (and presumably feeds more cancer cells sugar) than white sugar, because it is higher on the glycemic index. Adding the two figures together – annual per capita consumption of sugar and grain-based products – we get a jaw dropping 360 lbs of sugar (sugar/high fructose corn syrup and grain carbs) annually – all of which may contribute to promoting the ideal metabolic situation of cancer cells: aerobic glycolysis.

This is why the ketogenic diet – a fat and protein focused diet, minus carbohydrates – has been found so useful in the treatment and reduction of the most aggressive of cancers: including brain cancer. Once you stop feeding the sugar/carb-craving cancer cells, they are forced to either undergo programmed cell death (apoptosis) or re-differentiate back into non-cancerous phenotypes.


Sugar suppresses a key immune response known as phagocytosis – the Pac-Man effect of the immune system.  Consuming 10 teaspoons of sugar can cause about a 50% reduction in phagocytosis.   If you consider the sugar in your cereal, the syrup on your waffles and pancakes, the sugar added to your morning coffee or tea, the sugar in cold beverages like iced tea, lemonade or sodas, the high fructose corn syrup in prepared foods, salad dressing and ketchup, and of course sugary snacks and desserts, you can see how easy it is to suppress your immune systems significantly. Not only the amount of sugar, but also the frequency of ingesting sugar is relevant to immune function. In one study, research subjects were found to have nearly a 38% decrease in phagocytosis one hour after ingesting a moderate amount of sugar. Two hours later, the immune system was suppressed 44%; immune function did not recover completely for a full five hours.


In most people, when sugar in any form is consumed, the pancreas releases insulin.  Breast tissue, for example, contains insulin receptors, and insulin is a powerful stimulant of cell growth.  One group of Australian researchers concluded that high levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF) may actually be causative of cancers of the breast, prostate, endometrium and pancreas. A broad study conducted in 21 countries in Europe, North America and Asia concluded that sugar intake is a strong risk factor contributing to higher breast cancer rates, particularly in older women. A four-year study at the National Institute of Public Health and Environmental Protection in the Netherlands compared 111 biliary tract cancer patients with 480 healthy controls. Sugar intake was associated with more than double the cancer risk.


Sugar ingestion seriously contributes to obesity, a known cause of cancer.  Obesity also negatively affects survival.  More than 100,000 cases of cancer each year are caused by excess body fat, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.  These include esophageal, pancreatic, kidney, gallbladder, breast and colorectal cancer.

Sugar Substitutes.

Sweeteners containing aspartame, saccharin or sucralose have been shown to contribute to bladder cancer, lymphoma and leukemia, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Good sugar substitutes are stevia (an all-natural herb from South America), barley malt, rice syrup, and palm sugar.  Even high-glycemic sweeteners like Sucanat, evaporated cane juice, molasses, honey and pure maple syrup are nutritionally superior to refined table sugar or high fructose corn syrup, and you can avoid sugar spiking if you consume them in the presence of high fiber foods like ground flaxseeds.

–Larry Myers, Editorial Content Director, A Wellness Update

Original Publish Date: May 2017