White Sugar: To the lay person, sugar is the white, sweet stuff that we use to add to our coffee or tea. Let it be known, refined sugar is toxic! Our ancestors did not eat sugar. The world before A.D. 500 did not know what refined sugar was. From zero refined sugar intake we have hit an average consumption of 152 pounds of sugar /person in 1997. Even up to the 17th Century sugar was actually an expensive luxury item.
USDA surveys show that on average, an American consumes about 20 teaspoons of sugar per day. A can of soft drink alone contains about 9 teaspoons of sugar. The WHO urges people to limit their daily consumption of free (added) sugars to approximately 12 teaspoons (48 grams) per day. Leading American health experts want the FDA to set a maximum recommended daily intake for added (free) sugars to 10 teaspoons (40 grams) per day. It is better is you keep it to 2 teaspoons a day!
Thus the problems facing us today is we eat too much sugar that our bodies find it difficult to handle or cope. Is there any wonder that the rates of diabetes, obesity, heart diseases, etc., had skyrocketed and are increasing with each year?
Various Forms of Sugars: Chemically the refined white sugar is sucrose, a disaccharide made up of glucose and fructose. Each 100 grams of sucrose produces 53 grams of glucose and 53 grams of fructose. So sucrose is not the only source of sugar. In fact there are many forms of other sugars that we must avoid, which lay persons do not seem to recognize. There are things like fructose, galactose, dextrin, lactose, mannitol, maltose, high fructose corn syrup, refined carbohydrates, white flour, etc. Added sugars are found largely in junk foods such as soft drinks, cakes, cookies, etc. The carbohydrates eaten in our meals also break down to form glucose.
Glucose – Fuel of Life
The primary fuel used in the body is glucose. Our body needs sugar, in the form of glucose in the blood, to function. Without sugar we will die. For example, to function well the brain needs about 25 grams of glucose circulating in the blood stream. The brain uses about 120 grams of glucose daily – this represents about 60 to 70% of the total body glucose metabolism.
Our brains do not tolerate too much or too little glucose in the blood stream. High levels of glucose damage cells everywhere in the body. In daily life, the blood glucose level of 126 mg/dL or higher is diabetic and levels less than 110 mg/dL is considered normal. In actual fact at 110 mg/dL the glucose is considered far from optimum. Ideally we should consider maintaining a fasting sugar level of no higher than 90 mg/dL.
Glucose Feeds Cancer
The German biologist Otto Warburg discovered that the metabolism of malignant tumours is largely dependent on glucose consumption. The use of PET scan to detect cancer is one good example of what sugar does. In PET scan patients are injected with radioacative glucose (i.e. sugar) and the areas inside the body that are cancerous consume the most glucose. These areas will show up as hot spots in the scan (see below). In short, cancer feeds on sugar. The more sugar you eat the more your feed your cancer. So remember again, sugar feeds cancer!
Insulin: the Key to Health and Illness
Many of us know insulin is associated with diabetes. And people with this illness are asked to minimize their sugar intake. But very few know that sugar creates more havoc in the body than we ever know. As pointed out earlier, the problem of today is we eat far too much sugar (in the form of junk food) than what our body needs. This is how the problems start:
* When we eat a meal, sugar, white flour or refined carbohydrates (food with high glycemic index) the nutrients in that meal are eventually converted to glucose and absorbed into the blood stream. The fats in the meal become fatty acids and are stored in the body as fat.
* The brain senses the arrival of glucose in the blood and the pancreas immediately releases a dose of insulin to enable the glucose to enter the cells. The release of insulin is also accompanied by the release of IGF (insulin-like growth factor-1) whose role is to stimulate cell growth.
* Any glucose not needed is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. However the total storage capacity is limited. Once the glycogen levels are filled in both the liver and the muscles, excess sugars are converted into fat and stored as adipose tissue mainly around our waistlines. So excess sugars or carbohydrates make us fat. Storing excess energy in the form of fat is to ensure availability of fuel for a rainy day.
* The more sugar we eat the more our pancreas will have to pump out insulin to take care of the above processes. A situation will arise when the cells in the body are so used to the exposure of high insulin levels that they develop resistance or become insensitive to the presence of normal levels of insulin. In an insulin resistant person the pancreas needs to produce more and more insulin to maintain metabolic control.
* Many of us suffer varying degrees of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance causes various biochemical changes in the body causing various problems.
What We Need to Know about Insulin
* Insulin is not only important to the diabetic. It is equally important to those who are healthy. Insulin can be both the cause and the answer to today’s majority of illnesses.
* Insulin ensures a steady flow of energy to the cells in our bodies. It helps create a healthy body weight, support the health of our hearts and circulatory system.
* Insulin maintains our emotional health and the clarity of our mind and memory.
* If insulin levels are chronically high in our body, it can cause great havoc throughout the body – leading to illnesses like overweight, obesity, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, mood imbalances and mental illness.
* Insulin causes our bodies to store excess sugars as fat but at the same time insulin also inhibits the mobilization of previously stored fat.
* Insulin also signals our livers to make cholesterol.
* Insulin and IGF directly stimulate:
a) Growth of cancer cells.
b) Stimulate the capacity of cancer cells to invade neighbouring tissues or metastasis.
c) Cancer cells are made less susceptible to chemotherapy when the (mouse’s) insulin system has been stimulated by the presence of sugar.
* Research have shown that as insulin and IGF-1 go up, so too do the rates of breast, prostate and colon cancers. Also the higher the levels of insulin and IGF-1 the higher is inflammation. Cancer needs insulin to thrive.
Insulin and Obesity
Insulin determines to a great extent how much fatty tissues we have in our body. The more insulin in our blood the fatter we become. The fatter we are the bigger are the fat cells. Fatty tissues can produce a variety of hormones which are detrimental to our health. These are:
* Tumour necrosis factor (TNF – explained in Letter 67) which promotes inflammation – the main cause of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, asthma, etc.
* Interleukin-6 (IL-6) which acts as both a pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory agent. It stimulates immune response to trauma, especially burns or other tissue damage leading to inflammation.
* Estrogen, a sex hormone is an important factor in both the cause and maintenance of breast and prostate cancers. At high levels estrogen can cause rapid growth of hormone-sensitive organs like the breast, uterus, varies and prostate. High levels of estrogen is also inflammatory.
If insulin resistance is allowed to go far enough, it may result in a condition called metabolic syndrome. It is said that one in four Americans today have metabolic syndrome which is manifested by:
* Overweight – especially around the waistline.
* High insulin.
* High blood glucose.
* High LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides.
* High blood pressure.
This disorder is a great threat to our health leading to high levels of inflammation. Inflammation leads to production of free radicals in the blood and tissues. As discussed earlier, inflammation is the underlying cause of cancer.
Dr. Barry Boyd, founder of the Integrative Oncology program at Greenwich Hospital (in The Cancer Recovery Plan) wrote:
* Many cancer patients develop the metabolic syndrome.
* Chemotherapy treatment can bring on the metabolic syndrome. And this is critical to know for treatment as well as follow up care to avoid recurrence of cancer or a new illness.
* Despite hundreds of scientific studies linking insulin to cancer’s cause and progression, remarkably few doctors have yet to appreciate this connection. This is like not seeing the forest for the trees. Doctors have known this for years but never paid attention to it as a target for treatment.
What Can We Do About This
1. Avoid refined sugar, refined carbohydrate, white flour, pasteries, cookies, cakes, etc.
2. You can get your sugars from fruits – whole or juice. If you are overweight, insulin resistant, or have elevated blood triglycerides, you should limit your intake of high-sugar fruits, such as grapes, mangos, sweet cherries, apples, pineapples, pears and kiwi fruit. This recommendation also applies to dried fruits which contain excessive sugar. Try to include more vegetables instead. However, some fruits like tomatoes, avocadoes, lemons, and limes, are very low in total sugar and do not have to be restricted.
3. Replace white rice with brown rice.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, professor of surgery at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Centre, wrote:
· The good news is that all of us can control our insulin levels by virtue of the nutrients we consume and the amounts of physical activity in which we engage each day … in the process give yourself the gift of good health.
Russell Blaylock, M.D., (in Health and nutrition secrets that can you your life) wrote: Sugar can be a very toxic substance. High sugar intake is also known to suppress the immune system, increasing the likelihood of bacterial and yeast infections, chronic viral illnesses and even cancer. We know that cancer’s major fuel is glucose. So anyone who has cancer should avoid sugar.
Marion Nestle, chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University, USA wrote (in What to eat): If it makes good sense to cut down on sugars and their principal sources – soft drinks, juice drinks, cookies, cakes, candy and ice cream – shouldn’t the government say so? Until recently it did say so, but the price of good advice and common sense proved too high in the face of industry pressures.
Some Research Reports On Sugar and Cancer
Seely & Horrobin. Diet and breast cancer: the possible connection with sugar consumption. Med Hypotheses 11:319-327. 1983.
In older women a strong correlation was found between breast cancer mortality and sugar consumption. A possible connection link between sugar consumption and breast cancer is insulin. This is an absolute requirement for the proliferation of normal mammary tissue and experimental mammary tumours may regress in its absence.
Potischman et al. Increased risk of early-stage breast cancer related to consumption of sweet foods among women less than age 45 in the United States . Cancer Causes Control. 13: 937-946. 2002.
Data suggest a modest relationship between intakes of sweet items with risk of in-situ and localized breast cancer in young women. This relation is consistent with the hypothesized link of high insulin exposure and risk of breast cancer.
Stefani et al. Dietary sugar and lung cancer. Nutrition & Cancer 31: 132-137. 1988.
The study suggests that high sucrose intake could be an important risk factor in lung carcinogenesis.
Bristol et al. Sugar, fat and the risk of colorectal cancer. British Medical J., 291: Nov. 1985.
High energy diet rich in sugar and fat are associated with the development of colorectal cancer.
Slatatert et al. Dietary sugar and colon cancer. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention: 6:677-685. 1997.
Dietary sugars, especially diets high in simple carbohydrates relative to complex carbohydrates increase risk of colon cancer, possibly through their impact on plasma glucose levels.
Giovannucci. Metabolic syndrome hyperinsulinemia and colon cancer: a review. Am J Clin Nutr. 86: 8365S. 2007.
An impressive body of epidemiologic data collected over the past decade indicate that the risk of colon cancer is elevated in those with metabolic syndrome.
Giovannjucci. Insulin, insulin-like growth factors and colon cancer: a review of the evidence. Amer Soc Nutritional Sc.: 3109S3116S. 2001.
· Insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF) axes are major determinants of proliferation and apoptosis and thus may influence carcinogenesis.
· Human evidence also associates high levels of insulin and IGF-1 with increased risk of colon cancer.
· Many studies indicate that dietary patterns that stimulate insulin resistance, including high consumption of sucrose, various sources of starch, a high glycemic index and high saturated fatty acid intake, are associated with a higher risk of colon cancer.
Tuyns et al. Diet and gastric cancer: A case-control in Belgium . Inter. J of Cancer 51:1-6. 2006.
There was an increased risk associated with meat and flour products, including white bread. Added sugar also increased risk of gastric cancer. Consumption of most vegetables and of fresh fruits was found to be protective.
Larsson et al. Consumption of sugar and sugar-sweetened foods and the risk of pancreatic cancer in a prospective study. Am J Clin Nutr 84: 1171-1176. 2006.
High consumption of sugar and high-sugar foods may be associated with a greater risk of pancreatic cancer.
Cowey & Hardy. The metabolic syndrome – a high risk state for cancer? Amer J Pathology 169: 1505-1522. 2006.
Most of the components of the metabolic syndrome have individually been linked in some way to the development of cancer.
Schoen et al. Increased blood glucose and insulin, body size and incident colorectal cacner. J Nat Cancer Inst 91: 1147-1152. 1999.
These data provide the first direct evidence of an association between elevated visceral adipose tissue level – higher levels of waist circumference, its associated metabolic effects and colorectal cancer.
Zhang et al. Hypothalamic IKKbeta/NF-kappaB and ER stress link overnutrition to energy imbalance and obesity.Cell 135:61-723. 3 October 2008.
Overnutrition is associated with chronic inflammation in metabolic tissues. The brain may react to excess food as if it were a pathogen.