It’s no secret that sugar is not your friend.
While the debate over just how bad sugar is for you is still raging, most experts agree that it’s one of the biggest issues with the Standard American Diet. Excessive consumption of sugar—particularly in the form of soft drinks, processed foods, and straight refined sugar in any form—has been conclusively linked with obesity, diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, high cholesterol, and more.
Because it’s so highly inflammatory, sugar consumption is arguably a risk factor for nearly every major disease
In fact, because it’s so highly inflammatory, sugar consumption is arguably a risk factor for nearly every major disease (since, as they say, inflammation is a root cause of all disease).
But perhaps one of the scariest things about sugar is its connection to cancer, which is one of the leading causes of death in the world. Although a wealth of studies (published over the course of many decades) has demonstrated the link between sugar consumption and cancer risk, we’re finally starting to acknowledge just how direct the connection is.
Research is pointing toward a simple but frightening conclusion: sugar is literally the fuel that allows cancer cells to proliferate, and thus one of the keys to preventing or reversing cancer is to get it out of your diet.
This finding makes the toxicity of sugar seem even more grave than it has before, but it also means that preventing and treating cancer may be much more straightforward than we think.
Are mainstream cancer researchers on the wrong track?
The bitter truth about mainstream cancer research and treatment is that it has generated miserable results over the past four decades. Some cutting-edge researchers believe this is because they’re barking up the wrong tree.
Mainstream oncology subscribes to the notion that cancer is primarily a genetic condition, but researchers like Thomas Seyfried, Ph.D. insists that it is a metabolic dysfunction—that is, cancer indicates a dysfunction in the body’s ability to produce energy from food and oxygen.
This idea isn’t new by any means. A Nobel Prize-winning biochemist named Otto Warburg, Ph.D. espoused this same idea as long ago as 1924. He went so far as to say that “the prime cause of cancer is the replacement of the respiration of oxygen in normal body cells with a fermentation of sugar.”
Unsurprisingly, Dr. Warburg’s perspective was all but ignored—but now overwhelming evidence has made this view of cancer much harder to sweep under the rug. Researchers have found that cancer cells are unable to produce energy via any other fuel source besides sugar (glucose). Healthy cells, on the other hand, also produce energy from ketones, which come from fatty acids.
You may have heard about ketones in the context of the paleo diet and other low-carb diets, which seek to shift metabolism into ketosis, wherein your body prioritizes fatty acids rather than sugars as fuel.
Because cancer cells require sugar to live, it turns out that this low-sugar dietary fad serves as a fantastic dietary cancer treatment.
Starving cancer cells
There’s compelling arguments on both sides of the fence about whether diets that encourage long-term ketosis are ultimately health-promoting.
Wherever you stand on ketogenic diets, though, the fact remains that they’re an excellent way to destroy cancer cells without harming healthy cells. When someone battling cancer cuts sugars and carbohydrates out of their diet, the metabolically normal cells simply begin to produce energy from ketones, and the metabolically dysfunctional cancer cells perish in the absence of sugar.
Studies have shown that ketogenic diets can significantly slow the growth of cancerous tumors. One researcher even used this dietary method to drive supposedly “incurable” cancer into remission.
When researchers dug deeper, they found that ketogenic diets (especially when combined with calorie restriction) combat cancer through a wide range of mechanisms: by reducing tumor blood vessel growth, triggering apoptosis (cancer cell suicide), destabilizing tumor DNA, and reducing levels of cancer-growth-supporting hormones like IGF-1.
And those are just the ways in which sugar restriction directly stops the growth of cancer. It also reduces systemic insulin, high levels of which have been linked with the development and spread of cancer.
Sugar restriction methods like ketogenic diets also lessen the negative side effects of conventional cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy, and they make these methods more effective (since cancer cells are made more vulnerable to treatment in the absence of sugar, and through all the mechanisms listed above). They also protect healthy cells from the debilitating damage that these treatments can cause.
So here’s the moral of the story: If you or a loved one is battling cancer (or hoping to prevent it), always remember that your dietary choices make a huge difference.
There are more choices than those offered by conventional oncologists—not only are they more personally empowering, but research is beginning to reveal that they’re also more effective. Beginning an effective battle against cancer (or preventing it in the first place) can be as simple as cutting refined sugar out of your diet.