When you use a mapping app on your phone, you may see multiple routes to get to a certain destination. One is the estimated fastest route, another may avoid tollways, and a third may show less turns. Your app may work a bit differently, but yours will likely give you multiple routes to offer you flexibility in getting to your destination. Your app gives you route alternatives.
Alternatives are a part of life. Which way do you go in pursuing a career, do you have a family, and if so, how large. And, of course, do you choose wisely in all aspects of your lifestyle to optimize your health. Alternative paths give you freedom and flexibility to make a better life. You choose your paths partly by your situation: is this job available, is your spouse in agreement as to the size of your family, do you have a certain health condition that is pressing you to make different choices. Life is an endless array of choices, impacted by your circumstances.
This applies to all life, including the smallest. Each cell in your body has options. Built into each cell are multiple pathways to get the energy and nutrients that they need. Also, cancer cells, which are still your body’s cells as much as are your normal cells, have choices. Since cancer has a limited focus — basically it just wants to grow — it doesn’t have to make many choices; but when it comes to energy, it is very effective in choosing a route to get enough to support its aggressive growth lifestyle.
Cancer has a clear advantage in a low oxygen environment. It can handle anaerobic metabolism better than healthy cells, and since a tumor restricts oxygen by the way it packs cells into a tight, cramped community, it can manage this harsh environment. However, the anaerobic pathway is limited — it can produce a fraction of the energy that the aerobic pathway can produce. Aerobic respiration produces over 15 times the ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the energy units of cells) per glucose molecule than does anaerobic respiration. So, in the presence of oxygen, aerobic metabolism gives an extreme energy advantage over anaerobic. One advantage anaerobic respiration has is its speed — it can happen very quickly, which is why it is useful in muscles to get energy for continuous movement, as in marathon running.
Cancer cells were formed from normal cells, and since most normal cell types have mitochondria, so do most types of cancer cells. The mitochondria are the energy power plants of cells, and they operate a complex biochemical sequence known as the Citric Acid Cycle (sometimes called the Krebs Cycle). Sugar, in the form of glucose, will break down into either pyruvate (with oxygen available) or lactate (without oxygen). Glycolysis is the biochemical process that produces pyruvate, which then has two choices: to either enter the citric acid cycle to produce more ATP energy or to be converted into lactate, which produces far less energy only — 2 ATP units, but those can be produced much faster than reacting with oxygen. If pyruvate chooses the full citric acid cycle, it will produce 36 ATP, but requires oxygen to be present. This energy surplus gives aerobic metabolism a great energy advantage over anaerobic respiration. Then how can cancer cells survive with such little energy? They thrive in low oxygen, highly acidic environments where normal cells could not exist. They found a way to keep on growing even when oxygen is not present, very similar to a muscle which is still able to contract and move when it has exhausted all oxygen sources — it depends on lactate for continued movement.
Since cancer is focused on growth, when it uses anaerobic respiration it does so voraciously. It eats up glucose at an extreme rate, so much that one way cancer is located is by following where the majority of glucose is going. Cancer is like a fire when the flames are fanned — it roars up and consumes fuel very quickly. It out-consumes everything around it.
We need some glucose — it is basic to energy production. But there is a dark side to sugar…
Our carbon footprint comes from sugar…
The molecular formula for glucose is C6H12O6. When you consider that water is H2O and carbon dioxide is CO2, you can see that breaking down glucose, with the addition of more oxygen, would yield water and carbon dioxide. To get there requires the complex steps of the Citric Acid Cycle, and involves breaking bonds of the glucose molecule, which yields energy. You can literally burn sugar, and you get water, carbon dioxide, and energy (the flame). So sugar is packed with energy, which is why it’s such a vital commodity in cell metabolism.
The chemical formula of glucose explains its energy potential, but before glucose is broken down, it is reactive. That is because of the shape of the molecule, which is a ring of mostly carbon atoms with an OH molecule attached to each carbon, leaves those OH molecules exposed, and they are excellent electron donors. Oxygen molecules are great electron receptors. Thus, glucose is reactive — it is seeking oxidation so it can dispose of some electrons. This reactivity means that sugar is both a necessity and a problem for the body, which attempts to control the sugar level carefully so that the sugar is properly used or stored, not hanging around causing oxidative stress, which can damage cells, proteins, and DNA by donating electrons and changing the biochemistry of the molecule to which they make their donation.
Stressing the stress
Your body expects to handle some oxidative stress, and antioxidants are used to safely take electrons before they damage your cells. When glucose is used normally and does not stay high in your blood, your body can manage that level of oxidative stress. When the glucose level rises too high, the excess is not being used quickly and is just looking for something to do.
When sugar damages cells, that damage needs to be repaired. What happens when anything in the body needs repair? Inflammation occurs. Inflammation is meant to be temporary and healing. Since your cells need glucose, your body will always have a little inflammation happening, because there is no way to avoid all oxidative stress. But that inflammation should be at a low level.
What else happens when sugar damages cells, proteins, or DNA? The word “stress” of oxidative stress says it all: the cells are being stressed. Stress is pressure to change, signaling the cells to do something different to avoid damage and a harmful environment. The concept is really quite simple: cells get biochemical signals from their environment. When they are in sync with that environment, the signals they receive tell them to maintain status quo. But when out of sync, the signals tell them to do something different. That’s adaptability. Unfortunately, oxidative stress signals cells to find a way to get in sync with a bad environment. Sometimes the way that they find is cancer.
Excess sugar is just one driver of stress-induced cancer, but it is a huge driver, particularly in today’s society. New research is making the connection between glucose stress and the formation of Cancer Stem Cells (CSCs). Once it was determined that certain cells within cancer had all the qualities and general behavior of stem cells, the puzzle came together for researchers. Outlined in a review article, published in Cancer Gene Therapy, researchers from the “G. d’Annunzio” University of Chieti-Pescara, in Chieti, Italy outlined the process from multiple colon cancer studies. Stem-like qualities, simply called “stemness” is exhibited in cells chronically bathed in a high glucose environment. As time progresses, the stemness increases until the cells are fully operational CSCs. As they state: “Glucose is a fundamental nutrient in cellular stemness; in fact, the cancer stem cell population is related to high glucose levels in the tumor microenvironment.” CSCs, then are completely able to switch between aerobic and anaerobic respiration as needed — they can choose whichever pathway the environment demands. As the researchers state: “(The studies) underline the metabolic plasticity of CSCs to switch between Oxidative Phosphorylation System (OXPHOS) and glycolysis in an environment-dependent manner.”
Research shows sugar creates a massively increased risk for cancer. In one review of studies, published in Annual Review of Nutrition, researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York reviewed multiple sugar/cancer studies. They found, in the case of increased sugary beverage consumption, that 8 of 15 studies showed a 23 – 200% higher cancer risk, and in 2 of 5 studies on higher sugar intake overall they showed 60 – 95% increase in risk.
With obesity, diabetes, or hyperglycemia (chronically high blood glucose), studies overwhelmingly show a greater cancer risk. For example, as published in a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers from the Epidemiology and Applied Research Branch, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA ran a massive 16 year study of 467,922 men and 588,321 women: diabetes increased cancer risk from a low of 20% to over twice the risk as compared with those who did not develop diabetes. Similar results are shown for obesity and cancer risk. And even more studies show increased cancer risk from upset gut flora due to excess sugar consumption. Once sugar mismanagement overwhelms homeostasis, cancer risk shoots up dramatically.
Your body tries to compensate for excess sugar, but these defenses are no match for the Standard American Diet. Excess sugar causes a chain reaction whereby hyperglycemia occurs. Then normal cells start developing “stemness.” Then CSCs develop. Finally you get the cancer diagnosis, which is way down the chain of events that led to it. You can break the chain reaction by keeping sugar low — not just occasionally, but as a lifestyle. Many roads lead to cancer, but you don’t have to take any of them. If you are taking the sugar route, your body’s mapping app is requesting a u-turn.
Dr. Nemec’s Review
The big point made with the research is sugar causes normal cells to become cancer stem cells. Let me state this once again slowly:
Glucose and all sugar of all forms except leafy greens and low glycemic index vegetables, causes normal cells to become cancer stem cells.
Well, your response would be, “I don’t eat any sugar,” but you must understand sugar is not just sweet — it’s in most everything Americans eat, grains, bread, pasta, starches, rice, potatoes — these are all sugar sources. These are what we all grew up on and they are great short term, quick energy sources especially for growing cells. But after the age of 30 you do not want growing cells anymore or you’re going to start growing abnormal cancer cells. That’s why your bread and pasta that you ate when you were eight years old did not cause cancer stem cell formation. It is because you were burning this fuel rapidly as you grew. It did not hang around very long. Now fast-forward 30 years: if you’re eating the same types of food (and you stopped growing when you were 18), what is this highly reactive, highly energetic sugar, source of energy going to do? It becomes free radical-forming and definitely growth stimulating; but your cells are no longer growing after your teen years, instead it stimulates cancer stem cells to form which then produce cancer cells, which are the bulk of all malignant tumors in the body.
Why is sugar so bad? Because it is a highly reactive and unstable energy source of electrons. Because it’s an electron donor, if you do not have the proper number of electron acceptors, then you produce free radicals, meaning an abnormal number of electrons. This sets off the chain reaction of damage at the cellular level. So electrons are necessary, but must be kept in balance — just like fire is necessary for heat, but must be kept in balance or it can burn the whole house down. The same goes for sugar.
This is why after the age of 18 it’s time for a radical diet change. You must change from a glucose or sugar burning metabolism to a much more stable and not abnormal growth forming energy source which is raw uncooked plant fats. This food source is even the best for growing children because it is much much less inflammatory and toxic to the system. How do you know this? What is the primary food for newborn babies? It is breast milk, which consists of 87% water, 1% protein, 4% lipid, and 7% carbohydrate. In percentages, if you mimic their diet, your diet should be 5% protein, 35% plant fats and 65% complex carbohydrates in the form of leafy green vegetables and other low glycemic index vegetables. Isn’t that too little protein? No, of course not: a baby grows very rapidly, produces many cells including the growth of muscle cells, bone cells and brain cells extremely rapidly — all with only 5% protein. Anything in excess of this is actually turned into inflammatory sugar, which is the problem with the standard American diet because first, they eat too much sugar and non-vegetable carbohydrates, and second, they eat too much protein which turns into sugar in the body once you pass the 5% limit. Can you see how Americans are inflammatory and a breeding ground for cancer stem cell formation?
There is a better way than sugar for fuel in the body. That better way is burning raw plant fat for energy to produce ketones. This does not need sugar at all and is a much more stable form of energy long-term. It produces little inflammation throughout the tissues. Fat has twice the amount of energy molecules as compared to carbohydrates or proteins.
So the take-home message is quite simple. Stay away from protein in excess of 5%, sugar, and carbohydrates unless they’re low glycemic index vegetables or greens — unless you want to trigger cancer stem cell formation and growth/migration in the body, which is the root of all cancers.
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