Sugar and Cancer
One of the questions most frequently asked by health-conscious individuals, “Is there a link between sugar consumption and the risk of developing cancer?” Although this question appears to be a simple one, it is actually quite complicated. While no strong evidence to directly link sugar consumption to an increased cancer risk exists, there is an indirect link. Sugar intake does affect blood sugar and insulin levels, and high insulin levels are associated with an increased cancer incidence.
Can a sugar-free diet lower the risk of getting cancer?
Instead of a sugar-free diet, choose carbohydrates wisely from foods which also contain other nutrients and fiber. Any extremely restricted diet such as a zero-sugar diet actually cannot provide many benefits to our bodies. The best carbohydrate sources are nutrient-packed and fiber rich foods such as vegetables and whole grains. Complex carbohydrates have a reduced impact on blood sugar and insulin resistance compared to simple carbs.
What cancers correlate with sugar intake?
Research has found that sugar intake is associated with prostate, colorectal, pancreatic and breast cancer. Through dietary questionnaire analysis, it was shown that people who consumed more, high glycemic index foods have a 26% higher risk of prostate cancer than those following a low-glycemic diet. Similarly, the risk of rectal cancer is 44% higher; while the risk of pancreatic cancer is 41% greater. A further study also revealed that diets containing high fructose may increase the risk of pancreatic and breast cancer. The result of another follow-up study on stage-3, colon cancer patients indicated that patients consuming high-glycemic index foods had a lower survival rate.
Although natural fruits contain fructose, the impact on blood sugar is less than that of refined starch, since fresh fruits also provide a variety of phytochemicals and fiber. Of course, occasional small amounts of sweets are unlikely to have a significant impact on cancer risk. A long-term, balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle is the best way to reduce cancer risk. Several positive and helpful recommendations are listed below:
A.L, MS, RD