May 28 2008 post. That sugar is bad for folks who have cancer is nothing new. There is a ton of literature on this topic. And the cancer-sugar connection makes sense when you consider that PET scans are able to identify possibly active tumours thanks to radioactive sugar (radioactive sugar…no comment!!!) injected into the body. Since active tumours gobble up sugar much more quickly than healthy cells, the so-called “hot spots” that show up on PET scans could well be cancer cells having a radioactive sugar snack. Scary, when you think of it.
After my diagnosis in 2005, and after reading Quillin’s book, “Beating Cancer with Nutrition,” I cut back on sugar. Way back. For a time I even eliminated it. After a few months, though, I fell off the no-sugar-at-any-costs wagon. I take a bit of honey in my morning cappuccino. I still avoid white and brown sugar as much as possible, but I have resumed eating sweets whenever I feel like it.
Thing is, since reading the study linking stress to myeloma (see my Page on this topic), I have become convinced that it’s worse to crave something sugary and NOT eat it, or eat it and feel guilty!, than just to go ahead and eat it. I don’t fight urges anymore (well, if they are within reason, of course!). My diet is certainly much healthier than it used to be: for instance, I eat heaps of Brassicaceae (broccoli etc.), garlic, onions etc.
But the point of my post today is: why is sugar bad for us? What are the mechanisms involved? Well, researchers at the Duke School of Medicine may have found an answer. According to a recent Science Daily article (http://tinyurl.com/45yrh2), the Duke researchers discovered that sugar is used by tumour cells to avoid programmed cell death (apoptosis): They make use of a protein called Akt, which promotes glucose metabolism, which in turn regulates a family of proteins critical for cell survival […]. So AKT (in its mutant form) apparently keeps cancer cells alive.
The researchers also noticed that when they removed glucose from the environment, Akt was not able to prevent the cancer cells from dying. Aha! One of the researchers commented that Akt’s dependence on glucose to provide an anti-cell-death signal could be a sign of metabolic addiction to glucose in cancer cells, and could give us a new avenue for a metabolic treatment of cancer. Interesting.
Then I read a related Science Daily report (http://tinyurl.com/3or2dj) about glycolysis, a process that turns glucose into energy for cells. Unlike healthy cells that get their energy for growth from both glycolysis and respiration, cancer cells are highly dependent on glycolysis. Highly dependent, huh? More proof that cancer and sugar are good buddies.
The second article tells us that researchers at MD Anderson have now combined two drugs that inhibit glycolysis in human tissue cultures of acute lymphocytic leukemia, thus starving the leukemia cells from their energy source while leaving healthy cells free to get their energy from respiration.
Now I just have to find the time to do some research concerning natural non-toxic ways to inhibit glycolysis without eliminating chocolate chip cookies from my diet…