The consumption of sugar has long been recognized as a direct cause of obesity and diabetes, two of the major health concerns facing Americans today. However, it may be surprising for some people to learn that there is a direct correlation between sugar rich diets and the development of many common cancers. With nearly 13 million people being diagnosed with some form of cancer every year, it is clear that cancer has become an ongoing epidemic that shows little sign of abating. And while environmental factors can account for a percentage of those cancer diagnoses, lifestyle and diet remain the primary causes of many of the most common forms of cancer. Clearly, our Western diet, with its over reliance on high cooked and processed fat and sugar rich processed foods, is taking its toll on our health.

But Surely the Body Needs Sugar for Fuel?

As most of us learned in our high school biology classes, the human body converts sugars into the fuel it needs to survive and thrive. This is, of course, true. The body burns sugars for fuel, and uses that fuel to provide the basic energy we need to live. However, the body naturally produces the sugar it needs by converting proteins and starches into glucose. In this way it fuels the metabolism, promotes healthy cell growth and regeneration, and energizes the blood, tissues and organs of the body. The only outside sources of sugars the body needs, are those that are found in a vegetarian based diet, rich in organic vegetables. Foods that are high in either refined sugar or even natural sugars do not, in fact, boost the body’s energy levels. They only serve to throw the body’s natural mechanisms off kilter, resulting in ill health and chronic disease. The body’s metabolism actually works far better burning living and raw plant fats for fuel than starches and sugars.

Excess Dietary Sugar and Cancer

Once we accept that the body can produce all of the natural glucose it needs from a healthy diet, we can begin to look at the negative effects of the over consumption of sugars on our overall health, and how it can lead to the development of cancer. All cells rely on sugar for the energy they need to reproduce, but cancer cells are particularly ravenous for sugars. And when we have too much sugar in our daily diet it tends to feed cancerous cells, giving them the fuel they need to multiply and form into colonies. Moreover, excess dietary sugar leads to an increase in insulin production, as well as an increase in the protein B-catenin, both of which have been linked to an elevated risk for developing a number of different types of cancer. Recent studies have shown that B-catenin unnaturally extends cell-life while encouraging cell proliferation, thereby increasing the potential for cells to mutate and turn cancerous.

Beware of Hidden Sugars

At first glance, reducing our intake of sugar would appear to be simple. However, refined sugars lurk in often surprising places, and foods that appear healthy may actually be packed with unnecessary, and unwanted, sugars. In addition to the obvious offenders, soda, candy, and pastries, excess refined sugars can also be found in the following:

  • Sports Drinks
  • Protein/Nutrition Bars
  • Salad Dressings
  • Breads
  • Pastas
  • Grains
  • Starches- rice, potatoes
  • Processed Meats
  • Canned Goods
  • Frozen Vegetables and Frozen Prepared Meals
  • Fruit Juices
  • Vitamins and Nutritional Supplements

Because unwanted sugar can hide in the most surprising places, it is important to be an informed consumer, and to be vigilant about what one includes in one’s diet.

We have known for a long time that too much sugar in the diet is a primary cause of diabetes, and that high cooked and processed fat and sugar rich, diets lead to obesity and heart disease. But sugar is also a contributing factor in the development of many common forms of cancer. By eliminating sugar and starch from the diet, and allowing the body to produce the natural glucose it needs from a healthy vegetarian diet, we can all greatly reduce our risk for a variety of chronic illnesses, including cancer.