There is no doubt that excessive sugar consumption is one of the most harmful eating habits in modern society, so it is no secret to say that it is related to serious effects on general health and body weight. Finally follow a diet rich in ultra-processed foods, is the key to all kinds of chronic diseases, based on this in recent years much has been said about the direct relationship of excessive sugar consumption with cancer. The truth is that there is a lot of information and myths about it, the good news is that we currently have serious scientific references that are of great help to put things in a clear perspective.
First thing’s first: Before analyzing the effects of a diet rich in sugar with an increased risk of cancer, it is important to say that our body needs sugar to function. It is well known that glucose is the only sugar that feeds the brain and is therefore its main source of energy, in fact in humans the brain requires approximately the 20% of energy derived from glucose. However, glucose is also the body’s most important source of energy, which is triggered by the digestion process. Along the digestive tract, a chain of chemical transformations which convert food into nutrients and these in smaller elements. Subsequently, the blood is responsible for transporting glucose to the liver (reserve glucose), the brain and all the cells of the body.
It is very relevant to begin to understand that sugar comes in very different forms. The simplest form is as a single molecule, like glucose and fructose, these simple sugar molecules can also come together, either in pairs or as longer molecule chains. It is worth mentioning that all these combinations of molecules are carbohydrates and they are the main source of energy for our body.
Now the form of sugar that most of us are familiar with is table sugar, which is a simple sugar that dissolves in water and it gives things a sweet taste. Its proper name is sucrose and it is made up of glucose and fructose crystals. Table sugar is refined, which means that has been processed to extract it from a natural source (usually sugar beets). In addition, there are certain unprocessed foods that can also be high in simple sugars, for example: honey (also made mainly of glucose and fructose) is almost pure sugar and fruit. As the sugar chains lengthen, they lose their sweet taste and no longer dissolve in water. These chains are called polysaccharides and form a large component of the starchy foodsSo most common starchy foods like rice, bread, pasta, and vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes will likely not taste sweet, but they will be high in carbohydrates.
Therefore, it is no secret to say that sugar in some form or another is found in many of the foods we eat. And this is good since our body depends on it to function properly, finally all cells need energy to survive and perform their most basic functions. Somehow, cells need to convert the nutrients in our diet into a form of energy that they can use, called ATP.
To understand your relationship to cancer, it is important to know that Glucose is the basic fuel that powers each and every one of our cells. If we eat or drink things that are high in glucose, such as sweets and soft drinks, the glucose will be absorbed directly into the blood and will be ready much faster for our cells to use. When eating starchy foods such as pasta, enzymes in saliva and digestive juices will break them down to convert them into glucose, which is why when there are no carbohydrates in our diet, cells can convert fat and protein to glucose as a last resort, because they need glucose to survive. In fact, this is where sugar and cancer begin to collide. The reason? Cancer is a disease of cells.
On sugar and cancer:
Cancer cells generally grow rapidly, multiplying at a rapid rate, this is an energy-intensive process. This means that in principle they need a lot of glucose, although they also need many other nutrients, such as amino acids and fats; it is not just sugar that they crave.
Based on this, the myth arose about how a High sugar intake is a habit that feeds cancer. However, it is much more complex, although cancer cells need a lot of glucose, all of our healthy cells also need glucose. So there is no way to tell our bodies to allow healthy cells to have the glucose they need, but not to give it to cancer cells. In addition, it has been proven that following severely carbohydrate-restricted diets, is often associated with long-term health damage. Finally, it is a style of eating that leads to the elimination of most of the foods that are rich in fiber. It is also well known that cancer patients must have strict professional supervision in their diet, since some treatments tend to result in weight loss and put the body in a state of extreme stress. Therefore, poor nutrition from restrictive diets It could also hinder recovery or even be life threatening.
What has been proven is that a high consumption of ultra-processed foods and therefore an excessive consumption of refined sugars, is related to devastating side effects, which in many cases are not usually immediate and the worst thing is that they accumulate over the years . And with this comes the appearance of all kinds of chronic diseases, as happens directly with certain types of cancer. So ehe type of sugar we consume and the passage of time, are factors that do influence.
On the other hand, after a constant and excessive consumption of sugar, one of the main consequences is weight gain and there is solid scientific evidence showing that being overweight or obese increases your risk for 13 different types of cancer. In fact, obesity is the leading preventable cause of cancer after smoking, about which we have written many times before. Complementing this, a recent study published in 2019, comes with new findings in this regard: researchers found that people who regularly drink sugary beverages have a higher risk of cancer, regardless of body weight.
Therefore the conclusion is overwhelming: Avoiding excessive consumption of the worst sources of sugar (refined and processed) is the way to good health and is key in the prevention of all kinds of chronic diseases. Finally, excess sugar is the main cause of chronic inflammation and obesity, increases the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, damages cells and leads to oxidative stress. Today we know that the sum of all these factors is what truly increases the risk of suffering from cancer, finally what we eat and the sum of our daily habits. They do make a difference!
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