A recent discovery was made by Belgium scientists that goes a long way to understanding how sugar affects cancer.
Journal Nature Communication published in a paper, Vrije University in Brussels and researchers from VIB, a life sciences research institute, found that a compound in sugar stimulates aggressive cancer cells and helps them to grow faster.
Research led by Johan Thevelien, a microbiologist with VIB, builds on what scientists already knew about the Warburg effect, where cancer cells speedily break down sugar for energy and to fuel for extra growth.
“Cancer cells multiply faster than normal cells and require more energy, that’s why they need the rapid sugar breakdown,” Thevelein tells Global News. “We found a molecular connection: there’s an intermediate compound in the sugar pathway that acts as a direct activator of Ras, a cancer-causing protein. Our discovery reveals a vicious cycle where the Ras protein stimulates the sugar breakdown and the overactive sugar breakdown stimulates the Ras protein.”
On the whole, there is now a direct link between the aggressiveness of cancer cells and sugar, but it doesn’t mean removing sugar out of your diet will guarantee you don’t get cancer.
Thevelein says, “We have no evidence of this effect happens in healthy people,” but this research will be beneficial to cancer patients to avoid consuming sugars like glucose and fructose which are speedily broken down by the body.
“Reducing sugar intake during cancer treatment might help the system to overcome cancer and it might facilitate the action of chemotherapy because it’s difficult to kill the cancer cells if they’re always activated [by sugar],” he says. “Providing sugar to cancer cells carries a greater risk of stimulating their aggressiveness.”
Starches would be the best food for cancer patients as they take longer to break down in the body and are less likely to feed the cancer cells.
According to Canadian Cancer Society, people living with cancer should eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods especially during treatment when their body needs energy. A healthy diet means rich in calories and protein which can help decrease the risk of infection and assist the body in recovery from treatment.
Scientist advised that patients who are going through treatment should eat smaller and more regular meals and to consume more proteins like nuts, eggs, seeds, cheese, and meat.