Cancer and Sugar

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Cancer and Sugar

According to several research studies cancer cells are metabolically different from normal cells. It was initially suggested over 60 years ago, by Noble laureate Otto Warburg, that the most prominent feature of tumor cell metabolism (the so-called Warburg effect) is the cancer cells’ strong dependence on sugar. Warburg proposed that cellular respiration must be irreversibly injured in cancer cells. Although the concept has been refined, aerobic glycolysis (use of sugar for energy) is still considered to be a hallmark of cancer. This opens up novel therapeutic strategies exploiting this potential Achilles heel of cancer. This so-called “ketogenic diet”, that is high in fat and low in carbohydrates, is considered to have beneficial effects by forcing cells to utilize fatty acids as their primary energy source. There is increasing amount of evidence implying that the ketogenic diet is an effective adjuvant cancer therapy. Most cancer cells lack the enzymes necessary to metabolize fat or protein and they depend on sugar. Sugar does not cause cancer, but if we restrict carbohydrates, the main source of glucose, we make it difficult for cancer cells to divide and they may starve to death. Recently, a group of scientists in Belgium found a direct link between sugar intake and cancer. Besides providing a clear warning to cancer patients to reduce sugar consumption, they identified a mechanism by which high sugar activates the aggressiveness of cancer. According to the lead author, there are some recent clinical trials which indicate that low sugar diet is beneficial for recovery of patients with cancer especially for those that undergo chemotherapy.

Peter Acs, MD, PhD – Medical Oncologist

Updated 7:00 PM ET, Mon March 26, 2018

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