Sugar, Inflammation, Angiogenesis & Cancer

Sugars and the inflammation and acidic environments they create are important constituents of the local environment of tumors. In most types of cancer inflammatory conditions are present before malignancy changes occur. “Smoldering inflammation in tumor microenvironments has many tumor-promoting effects. Inflammation aids in the proliferation and survival of malignant cells, promotes angiogenesis and metastasis, subverts adaptive immune responses, and alters responses to hormones and chemotherapeutic agents.”[1]

The entire subject of inflammation, angiogenesis, sugar and cancer is crucial to understanding the links between cancer and the foods we eat and is covered separately in the following chapter. When we begin to zero in on inflammation and the acid conditions caused by excessive consumption of simple sugars, including fructose and high-fructose corn syrup, we begin to see more clearly how food and cancer are intimately connected.

In July 2012 a leading U.S. cancer lobby group urged the surgeon general to conduct a sweeping study of the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on consumer health, saying such drinks play a major role in the nation’s obesity crisis and require a U.S. action plan. In a letter to U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the American Cancer Society’s advocacy affiliate called for a comprehensive review along the lines of the U.S. top doctor’s landmark report on the dangers of smoking in 1964.

The ruckus is about the growing connection between high sugar intake, mineral depletion, dehydration, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Sugar causes cancer because the tendency of high-carbohydrate consumers tends toward dehydration, which is pro-inflammatory and thus pro-cancer.[2]

Pancreatic cancer cells use the sugar fructose to help tumors grow more quickly.[3] Tumor cells fed both glucose and fructose used the two sugars in two different ways, a team at the University of California Los Angeles found. Their findings, published in the journal Cancer Research, helps explain other studies that have linked fructose intake with pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest cancer types. Researchers concluded that anyone wishing to curb their cancer risk should start by reducing the amount of sugar they eat.

This is the first time a link has been shown between fructose and cancer proliferation. “In this study we show that cancers can use fructose just as readily as glucose to fuel their growth,” said Dr. Anthony Heaney of UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center, the study’s lead author. “The modern diet contains a lot of refined sugar including fructose and it’s a hidden danger implicated in a lot of modern diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and fatty liver.” While this study was done on pancreatic cancer, these findings may not be unique to that cancer type, Heaney said. “These findings show that cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation.”

It has been known for decades that cancer cells thrive on glucose. Moreover, foods that cause a sharp rise in blood glucose (i.e. foods with a high-glycemic index ranking) trigger the secretion of insulin and insulin growth factor (IGF-1), two hormones that also promote cancer growth.

Researchers using rats have found that a low-carbohydrate high-protein diet reduces blood glucose, insulin, and glycolysis, slows tumor growth, reduces tumor incidence, and works additively with existing therapies without weight loss or kidney failure.[4] Such a diet, therefore, has the potential of being both a novel cancer prophylactic and treatment.

Dr. Otto Warburg’s 1924 paper, “On metabolism of tumors,” stated, “Summarized in a few words, the prime cause of cancer is the replacement of the respiration of oxygen in normal body cells by a fermentation of sugar.” If you’ve ever made wine, you’ll know that fermentation requires sugar. The metabolism of cancer is approximately eight times greater than the metabolism of normal cells. Doctors have known for a long time that cancer metabolizes much differently than normal cells. Normal cells need oxygen. Cancer cells despise oxygen.

Warburg’s hypothesis was of course that cancer growth was caused when cancer cells converted glucose into energy without using oxygen. Healthy cells make energy by converting pyruvate and oxygen. The pyruvate is oxidized within a healthy cell’s mitochondria, and Warburg theorized that since cancer cells don’t oxidize pyruvate, cancer must be considered a mitochondrial dysfunction.

Most, if not all, tumor cells have a high demand on glucose compared to benign cells of the same tissue and conduct glycolysis even in the presence of oxygen (the Warburg effect). In addition, many cancer cells express insulin receptors (IRs) and show hyperactivation of the IGF1R-IR (IGF-1 receptor/ insulin receptor) pathway. Evidence exists that chronically elevated blood glucose, insulin and IGF-1 levels facilitate tumor genesis and worsen the outcome in cancer patients.

Treating diabetic patients, A. Braunstein observed in 1921 that in those who developed cancer, glucose secretion in the urine disappeared. One year later, R. Bierich described the remarkable accumulation of lactate in the micromilieu of tumor tissues and demonstrated lactate to be essential for invasion of melanoma cells into the surrounding tissue. One year after that Warburg began his experiments that eventually ended for him with a Nobel Prize.

Sugar turns the body into a suitable breeding ground for viruses,sugar bacteria, fungi and cancer by devastating the immune system.

Knowing that one’s cancer needs sugar, does it make sense to
feed it sugar? Does it make sense to have a high-carbohydrate diet?

Of the four million cancer patients being treated in America today, hardly any are offered any scientifically guided nutrition therapy beyond being told to “just eat good foods.” Oncologists have no shame about this, insisting that diet has little to do with cancer.

Cancer patients should not be feeding their cancers like they would feed cotton candy to their grandchildren. As long as this cancer cell can get a regular supply of sugar—or glucose—it lives and thrives longer than it should. Now imagine oncologists getting enlightened and they start to advise their patients to starve the cancer instead of bombing it to smithereens with chemotherapy and radiation treatments all the while feeding the cancer with sugar!

[1] Cancer-related inflammation; Mantovani A, Allavena P, Sica A, Balkwill F.; Nature. 2008 Jul 24;454(7203):436-44;

[4] A Low Carbohydrate, High Protein Diet Slows Tumor Growth and Prevents Cancer Initiation; Victor W. Ho et al; Cancer Res July 1, 2011 71; 4484;