Sugar feeds cancers

In part two of our series I wanted to share about a great event I attended. (Spoiler: Sugar feeds cancers.)

I recently attended the 2015 Annual meeting of The International & American Associations of Clinical Nutritionists (IAACN). The IAACN is the Professional Membership Organization of practicing clinical nutritionists in many health care professions, and the focus of this year’s conference was cancer.

There were some excellent presentations on the nutritional needs of people receiving chemotherapy and radiation therapies. There were some great talks on why the use of supplements and antioxidants during chemotherapy is a good idea. However the presentations I found most interesting focused on research papers that reviewed the scientific literature looking at the connections between sugar consumption and cancer.

Many of the papers showing the connection between increased risk of cancer and increased consumption of sugar are several years old. More recent research is scarce. Why? Well for two reasons: No one wants to pay for it, and the older studies were adequate. Nothing since their creation has been found that would dispute their findings.

The few studies that are recent focus on how elevated blood glucose levels, and elevated insulin levels, suppress our immune system in a way that leads to an increased risk of cancer. As important is the finding that these elevated levels also decrease survival once cancer is diagnosed.

(You will find a list of references below.)

The Take Away from these studies?

You are at increased risk of developing cancer if you eat higher amounts of sugar and simple carbs, since this causes you to carry a higher level of insulin in your blood day after day. If a cancer is detected, people with high blood glucose levels and insulin resistance are less likely to survive their cancers. Therefore tackling these issues now, if you struggle with them, proves essential for managing a cancer diagnosis in the future if it should arise.

We discuss insulin resistance, and how to back yourself out of it, in great detail in our Healthy Eating Workshop. It will be a couple of months till our next class, but the lectures from the last class are available. Please contact us if you are interested.

The main point, and you might see a theme here on our site, is that diet and lifestyle changes often play a significant role in our ability to stave off illness and long term health issues. The cumulative effects of extended misuse of sugar, simple carbs and other unsupportive products can make it hard for us to work with serious illness if it arises. At Organic MD we want to give you as many tools as possible to keep your health strong and resilient.

A reason why I wanted to bring this up is connected to the number of people I work with facing a cancer diagnosis that are not clear about the impact of sugar and other foods on their cancer. I think this is because the message people receive continues to be inconsistent. Generally when they received their diagnosis they did not necessarily receive information about the impact of diet on their cancer. Or if it does come up the statement they sometimes hear is that the research does not really exist.

The research does exist, just not as a “hot” topic. Since the data was compiled some time ago, it is out of the public eye. As a result when I visit with them I cover this topic in detail. Although the larger system may forget the story of sugar and its impact on cancer, my hope is all of you will begin to learn it. Better yet – learn it and share it with everyone you care about. The story is worth hearing.

If you have cancer and your doctor tells you that there is no issue with eating sugar, then ask them why the PET scan used to find cancer in your body is centered on a molecule of sugar. When the PET scan was developed, doctors looked for a molecule that they could bind a short-lived radioactive molecule to that would go almost exclusively to cancer cells. They found two excellent candidates, glucose and fructose, and chose glucose because the process of binding the radioactive molecule was easier. Sugar carries the radioactive molecule to the cancer cells, and an imaging camera looks to see where the sugar went, since this is where the cancer cells are. Simple, and elegant, and it would never work if cancer cells were not so hungry for sugars.

Check out the references below and write us with questions you might have. Educating yourself is important, so take the time to read through this interesting research. We hold the power to change our habits. Perhaps this research will give you the push you need to fully take control. You are worth it.

To Your Health.


A) Seely, S. and Horrobin, DF; Diet and breast cancer: The possible connection with sugar consumption, Medical Hypotheses, Volume 11, Issue 3, July 1983, Pages 319-327


The paper presents an epidemiological study of breast cancer mortality in relation to food consumption. It was found that younger and older women (possibly pre- and post-menopausal women) differ with respect to such correlations. In older women a strong correlation was found between breast cancer mortality and sugar consumption (correlation coefficient = 0.9), and a weaker correlation, possibly of marginal interest, with fat consumption (correlation coefficient = 0.7). In younger women the correlation with diet seems weak. A possible connecting 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. Insulin secretion occurs in response to blood glucose level and could be excessive if the regulatory mechanism is overtaxed by large sugar intake. The same mechanism might account for the increased risk of mammary cancer in diabetics

B) Demetrakopoulos, GE, et al., Tumoricidal Potential of Nutritional Manipulations, Cancer Research, vol.42, p.756S, Feb.1982

ABSTRACT: can be found at

Abstract discusses nutritional manipulations that suppress tumors, and those like eating more sugar that cause tumors to grow faster.

C) Rossi-Fanelli, F., et al., Review: Abnormal Substrate Metabolism and Nutritional Strategies in Cancer Management, Journal Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, vol.15, p.680, 1991

ABSTRACT: can be found at:

Abstract discusses the fact that cancer thrives on glucose, initiating gluconeogenesis and insulin resistance. Lipid based parenteral solutions slow cancer growth. Otto Warburg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1931 for his work on this, showing that tumors can only use sugar as a food (substrate).

D) Hems, G., The Contributions of Diet and Childbearing to Breast-cancer Rates, Br.J.Cancer, vol.37, p.974, 1978

ABSTRACT: can be found HERE. (Article shows that sugar consumption predicts (0.73 correl) breast cancer.)

Mean, age-standardized breast-cancer mortality rates for women of 41 countries, during 1970-71, were closely correlated with diet for 1964-66. Partial correlation analysis indicated that breast-cancer rates were positively correlated with total fat, animal protein and animal calories, independently of other components of diet. These 3 components were correlated with one another so closely that it was not possible, with available data, to say whether any one was associated with breast cancer independently of the other 2. In addition to, and independently of, these correlations, breast cancer was associated with consumption of refined sugar.

Breast-cancer mortality rates at 50-54 years during 1964-67 for 26 countries were closely correlated with childbearing, expressed as mean family size for women aged 45-49 years in 1960-61. However, this correlation was not independent of the correlations with diet, and it was concluded that variation of breast-cancer rates between countries arose predominantly from differences in diet. The variation of breast-cancer risk with childbearing, observed in clinical studies, seemed best regarded as a second gradient of risk, seen more readily as variation of breast-cancer rates within a population, where differences in diet would be relatively small.

The physiological basis for the association between breast cancer and diet was not clear. The dietary associations did not correlate in an obvious way with height, obesity and estrogen levels, factors observed in clinical studies to influence risk of breast cancer. That the observed statistical associations were real was supported by published findings on effects of diet on mammary cancer in experimental animals, as well as the lower rates of breast cancer amongst vegetarians.

E) Hoehn, SK, et al., Nutrition & Cancer, Diet and Cancer,1, Issue 3, p.27, Spring 1979

ABSTRACT: Animals were fed iso-caloric diets of sugar or starch carbohydrates. The group eating more sugar developed significantly more mammary tumors than the starch-fed group.

Full text can be downloaded at:

F) Sanchez, A., et al., Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis, American Journal Clinical Nutrition, vol.26, p.180, 1973

ABSTRACT: Sugars impaired neutrophil phagocytosis by half (Your white cells lose half their ability to do their job with a blood sugar of only 120mg/dl, and the effect last for hours.) Abstract can be found at:

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