Dr Tom Jemison

July 2013

              In the August 2013 issue of National Geographic, Rich Cohen wrote an informative article about the history of sugar and chronic diseases stemming from it.  I encourage everyone to read it.  Sugar has a long history, but it wasn't until relatively recently that science and medicine continue to discover the harmful effects of over consumption.   About 75 years ago Dr Otto Warburg earned the Nobel Prize for his research in the metabolism of cancer cells.  What Dr Warburg found was that cancer cells use glucose at a rate 10 - 50 times greater than healthy cells.  Science has more recently shown that cancer cells express a far greater amount of glucose transporter proteins on their cell surfaces than healthy cells.  Cancer cells use the glucose to fuel uncontrolled growth and division.  Although our bodies require glucose to survive, too much of a good thing can be destructive to our health. 

             Sugar consumption in the United States is estimated to be on average almost 23 teaspoons of sugar a day, that's 77 pounds a year!  A great proportion of sugar intake is from processed foods;  which not only includes candies, desserts, and soda drinks but also baked and prepared goods.  Even that bottle of Ketchup in the refrigerator has added sugar.  As sugar intake has increased, so have cases of chronic disease including diabetes and cancer.  For example, in 2010 21.1 million Americans were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes while in 1973 the number of cases was 4.2 million.  A lot has changed since the 1970's but one change in particular stands out - the addition of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  HFCS is 55% fructose and 45% glucose.  The higher quantity of fructose makes HFCS sweeter to the taste then regular table sugar which is 50:50 fructose and glucose.  The greater sweetness triggers over stimulation of the pleasure and reward center in the brain which amplifies cravings.  Sugary processed foods are generally cheap and easy to obtain making it a convenient bad habit. 

                Because we know that cancer cells are sensitive to glucose, I always recommend that patients avoid added sugar in their diets as part of their treatment protocol.  Increasing vegetable intake, incorporating healthy protein sources like organic meats, nuts and beans, and reducing simple carbohydrates like white breads and white rice are simple ways to reduce the amount of glucose available to cancer cells while providing healthful nutrients to the rest of the body.  Fruits also provide essential antioxidants and vitamins.  Eating the whole fruit includes fiber which will reduce the sudden influx of the naturally occurring sugars into the blood.  Many cancer treatments target the metabolic activity of cancer cells especially glucose metabolism.  Modifying the diet by reducing the intake of added sugar is not only a beneficial preventative measure but an essential part of any cancer treatment protocol.