A cancer cell’s favorite treat? Fructose

Mmm, soda! A cancer cell's dream.

Bad news for those of you who love your soda and other sweet treats. A report out of the University of California at Los Angeles claims that pancreatic tumor cells utilize fructose to multiply. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most fatal forms of cancer, and it has long been linked to high fructose intake. The study, published in the Journal of Cancer Research, solidifies previous reports that this type of cancer and fructose are linked.

The study highlights the importance of the metabolism, or chemical reaction, of carbohydrates via a process known as glycolysis [the process of breaking down carbs and sugars] is imperative for cancerous cells to grow. In recent decades, our consumption of fructose has increased “dramatically,” and researchers now believe that cancer cells recognize fructose, and upon discovering it, begin to multiply rapidly. Pancreatic tumor cells in particular have this reaction when exposed to fructose, say study participants.

Fructose is a simple sugar [monosaccharide] found in fruits and honey. It’s often recommended as a substitute for sugar and is considered to be a healthier option in general, yet some physicians believe that too much fructose can actually cause diabetes and obesity. Along with white and brown sugar, maple syrup and dextrose, fructose sits at the top of the gylecemic index and is labeled as a food to avoid completely by some physicians [including Dr. Servan-Schreiber, author of Anticancer: A New Way of Life. See page 5 of the ‘Anticancer Action’ insert if you own his book].

The study findings state that avoidance of fructose may prevent the continue proliferation of cancerous tumor cells in patients with pancreatic cancer. Caution related to fructose intake is nothing new, as there has long been debate as to whether or not high fructose corn syrup should be regulated for use. It’s no secret that too much sugar can lead to diabetes, obesity, stroke, heart disease and other illnesses, but recently, the American Beverage Association [Coca-Cola is a member] successfully prevented the passing of a tax on beverages, including soda, that contained fructose.

“Sugar is sugar,” argues the beverage industry.

But “sugar isn’t sugar” to a pancreatic cancer tumor cell. In fact, these cells love sugar, but it’s fructose they really love, as it allows them to multiply. Tumor cells grown and monitored in petri dishes during the study clearly reacted differently to glucose [sugar] and fructose.

Dr. Anthony Heaney of the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center feels strongly about the public implications of the study.

“Hopefully, at the federal level there will be some effort to step back on the amount of high fructose corn syrup in our diets,” he said.

Want to find a tasty alternative to fructose? Agave nectar and stevia are two healthy options to consider.


Journal of Cancer Research

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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