What’s The Link Between Sugar And Cancer?

Consumption of sugary drinks have already been shown by researchers to be associated with increased risk of obesity and being obese is one of the risk factors for many cancers. Because the consumption of sugary drinks world wide looks to have increased during the last few decades, more researchers are interested in finding out what are the links between cancer growth and sugar consumption.

Cancer cells usually grow quickly and multiply at a fast rate. This takes a lot of energy and hence more glucose. Therefore the presumption has always been that if cancer cells need lots of glucose, then cutting sugar out of our diet must help stop cancer growing, and could even stop it developing in the first place.

Such presumption is not valid enough because even the healthy cells in the body require glucose to function properly. More studies need to be done to get more understanding on sugar and cancer.

Limiting Sugary Drinks Could Reduce Cancer Cases

A study published by The BMJ reports a possible association between higher consumption of sugary drinks and and an increased risk of cancer. The study was conducted by a team of researchers based in France who wanted to assess the associations between the consumption of sugary drinks (sugar sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juices), artificially sweetened (diet) beverages, and risk of overall cancer, as well as breast, prostate, and bowel (colorectal) cancers.

Their findings are based on 101,257 healthy French adults (21% men; 79% women) with an average age of 42 years at inclusion time from the NutriNet-Santé cohort study.

They observed that the average daily consumption of sugary drinks was greater in men than in women (90.3 mL and 74.6 mL, respectively). Also, 2,193 first cases of cancer were diagnosed and validated of which 693 were breast cancers, 291 were prostate cancers, and 166 were colorectal cancers.

In addition, their results show that a 100 mL per day increase in the consumption of sugary drinks was associated with an 18% increased risk of overall cancer and a 22% increased risk of breast cancer.

Cautious Interpretation of Results Necessary

The researchers noted that when the group of sugary drinks was split into fruit juices and other sugary drinks, the consumption of both beverage types was associated with a higher risk of overall cancer.

They said that possible explanations for these results include the effect of the sugar contained in sugary drinks on visceral fat (stored around vital organs such as the liver and pancreas), blood sugar levels, and inflammatory markers, all of which are linked to increased risk of cancer.

This is an observational study which couldn’t establish cause, and the authors say they cannot rule out some misclassification of beverages or guarantee detection of every new cancer case.

While cautious interpretation is needed, their findings add to a growing body of evidence indicating that limiting sugary drink consumption, together with taxation and marketing restrictions, might contribute to a reduction in cancer cases.

“Our data support the relevance of existing nutritional recommendations to limit sugary drink consumption, including 100% fruit juice, as well as policy actions, such as taxation and marketing restrictions targeting sugary drinks, which might potentially contribute to the reduction of cancer incidence,” the researchers added. Science Daily

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