“So you think you need sugar? Your cancer needs it even more.”
Dr Gary Fettke (Surgeon & brain cancer survivor)
Cancer rates are rising worldwide; estimates are that there will be a 70% increase in cancers over the next 20 years especially in developing nations and there is already a 3% increase in children’s cancers per annum. 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will develop cancer.
As we move towards a greater understanding of the metabolic basis of cancer growth and development, cancer is being considered more a metabolic disease as research moves away from the genetics and DNA mutations once thought to be at the bedrock of cancer genesis.
Some interesting facts:
- Diseases of lifestyle like obesity & diabetes are associated with an increased incidence of cancers notably of the breast, colon, ovary, uterus & prostate
- Coeliac disease (a condition of severe wheat intolerance) is associated with a significant increased risk of bowel cancers
- Waist circumference is a powerful predictor of cancer especially breast (2 – 4x increased risk) & colon cancer
- OBESITY = the 2nd highest risk factor for cancer after smoking
- Overweight women with breast cancer: have higher recurrence rates; 5x increased death rates ; respond poorly to chemotherapy and suffer more side effects from radiotherapy
- A high trans-fat intake is associated with a 2x increased risk of breast cancer
- Women with elevated blood sugars and breast cancer do worse on treatment and experience poorer outcomes
- Both hyperglycaemia (elevated blood sugar) and hyperinsulinaemia (elevated blood insulin) are predictors of cancer occurrence and cancer-related mortality.
- Cancer cells proliferate faster in a high sugar environment
- The role of sugar in cancer cell metabolism was shown back in the 1920’s by German scientist Otto Warburg who won the Nobel Prize in 1931 for his work showing that cancer cells use primitive and inefficient cellular glycolysis (a process of biological fermentation of glucose) for energy (ATP) production (known as the ‘Warburg Effect’)
- Cancer cells do not use normal mitochondrial processes for ATP production .By doing so cancer cells avoid the normal processes of programmed or controlled cell death (apoptosis) which any other irreparably damaged or abnormal cell would undergo. As said by oncologist Dr Robert Nagourney in his book ‘Outliving Cancer’ “Cancer cells don’t grow too much ….. they die too little”
- The ‘Warburg Effect’ allows cancer cells to divert glucose away from energy production to cell growth, facilitating the production of phospholipids required for cell structure
- The glycolysis energy pathway also allows rapidly growing cancer cells to ‘flourish’ in an anaerobic environment where their rate of growth exceeds the available blood oxygen supply
- Cancer cells thereby need more and more sugar and can ‘burn’ up to 200x more sugar than normal cells
- In effect cancer cells ‘corrupt’ cellular metabolism by having increased receptors for insulin and IGF-1 on their cell membranes enabling them to command the sugar supply
- There is increasing recognition of the association of diet and cancer – the chief culprits being sugar, particularly fructose, refined carbohydrates and polyunsaturated (omega 6 rich) vegetable oils creating a highly inflammatory environment in the body resulting in significant amounts of DNA damaging free radicals.
- Cancer cells invade surrounding cells and by using free radicals to cause cell death they in turn cause the release of building materials required for their further growth
- The ‘voracious appetite’ of cancerous cells for sugar is seen on a PET scan, frequently used in cancer diagnosis and monitoring, which demonstrates the uptake of radiolabelled glucose into tumours; virtually all cancers have the same PET scan appearance.
- 95% of cancer cells need glucose to survive, they cannot metabolise fat or ketone bodies
- Existing cancer treatments have largely ignored the area of glucose metabolism and there is growing evidence to show that future cancer treatments will be directed at how to starve cancer cells of their supply of glucose and the stimulatory effects of insulin & IGF-1 including the use of low carb nutritional ketosis as a therapeutic strategy
- Nutritional ketosis has also been shown to be protective of normal cells during chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment
- The modern high carb, seed oil rich diet is inflammatory and chronic inflammation is the underlying link to cancer; inflammation is considered “fertiliser” for cancer
- Low carb healthy fat ketogenic nutrition is not yet the cure for cancer but should be considered as part of a broad based cancer management strategy alongside conventional chemotherapy and radiotherapy options
- “Diet changes the nurture rather than nature of cancer” Dr Robert Nagourney ‘Outliving Cancer’.
- Researchers have found that reducing carbohydrate intake could reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence among women whose tumour tissue is positive for the IGF-1 receptor. They found an association between increased breast cancer recurrences in women with a primary breast cancer tumour that was positive for the IGF1 receptor, which is consistent with other studies….. They further found that a decreased carbohydrate intake was associated with decreased breast cancer recurrence for these women. (Edmond JA et al)