Reduce Your Risk of Cancer: How Eating a Low Sugar Diet Can Help

The war between sugar and cancer has been going on for decades, and recent research has identified a particularly nasty accomplice: the Warburg Effect. This principle explains why cancer cells are so efficient at metabolizing glucose and how this altered cellular metabolism can be linked to an increased risk of breast, lung, colon, and brain cancers. As we work to better understand cancer cell metabolism, it seems likely that eating a healthy diet low in added sugar both improves mitochondrial health, and may reduce the risk of developing certain forms of cancer.

Does sugar feed cancer cells? Let's explore further the role of sugar in tumor formation and what changes we can make to lower our risk.

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In the United States, 1 in 2 women and 1 in 3 men will develop cancer at some point in their lives. There are numerous risk factors that contribute to tumor formation including genetics, lifestyle choices, environmental exposure, and diet.

It's well known that a high-sugar diet increases inflammation and raises one’s risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular issues via blood sugar dysregulation. However, there’s also a fascinating relationship between sugar and cancer risk.

The Warburg Effect focuses on the unique ways that tumors and cancer cells derive the energy they use to grow and divide uncontrollably, which is what sets them apart from normal, healthy cells.

Cancer research has made great strides in the last decade, but side effects from modern cancer treatment like radiation and chemotherapy are still a heavy burden for cancer patients. With this in mind, if we can improve our cancer prevention strategies, it would benefit not only individuals, but friends, family, and the world.

Related: Natural Ways to Treat & Prevent Breast Cancer

What is the Warburg Effect?

The Warburg effect is an altered form of cellular metabolism that helps to explain why cancer cells are so efficient at metabolizing glucose. This creates an environment for tumor formation as the cancerous cells consume even more glucose than healthy cells in order to gain energy (1).

It has also been noted that cancer cells consume large amounts of glucose in comparison to healthy cells, giving rise to the idea that sugar-rich diets might increase the risk of tumor formation or aid in its progression.

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It allows cancer cells to evade the immune system

Normally, healthy cells extract energy from carbohydrates and fats to aerobically (in the presence of oxygen) create cellular energy, or ATP. The Warburg Effect explains that tumors produce more ATP from aerobic glycolysis, fermenting carbohydrates to produce lactic acid. 

This is unique because unlike healthy cells, which choose to ferment carbohydrates only when oxygen is limited, aerobic glycolysis in cancer cells involves high levels of fermentation even when oxygen is abundant. Warburg observed that cancer cells tend to convert most glucose to lactate regardless of whether oxygen is present (2).

Lactate produced by these cancer cells is then used as a signaling molecule to help the tumor (3):

  • evade tumor suppressor proteins
  • avoid apoptosis
  • invade other tissues

These findings apply specifically to breast, lung, colon, and brain cancers.

The Warburg Effect also explains why cancer cells are so resistant to chemotherapy and radiation therapies. Many of these treatments target normal cellular respiration (metabolism) and thus tumor cells may be able to survive chemotherapy because they are not affected by these treatments as much (4).

Read: How to Strengthen Your Immune System After Covid

Stronger mitochondria for better cellular health

Healthy cellular metabolism depends on the robust function of mitochondria, which are the energy powerhouses of each cell. Mitochondria are also involved in regulating apoptosis, or programmed cell death, which is a good thing in terms of getting rid of potentially cancerous cells.

When mitochondria function becomes dysregulated, tumor cells can develop, continuing to grow and divide.

Related: The Coenzyme You Need to Fight Signs of Aging

Reducing your risk with a low-sugar diet

Although research isn’t able to confirm that sugar feeds cancer cells, eating excessive high sugar foods can contribute to an increased risk of obesity and blood sugar imbalances, which are risk factors for cancer.

Reducing your intake of sugary foods can also promote healthy mitochondria function, which is essential for cellular health.

In a large review of 73 meta-analyses (which included 8,601 studies) excessive intake of sugary foods was associated with significantly higher risks of 45 serious health problems, including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, hypertension, depression, early death, and—not surprisingly—cancer (5). 

Eating foods with excess sugar can lead to the body producing more insulin and insulin-like growth factors, which are linked to increased cancer risk (6). A diet that is lower in added sugar reduces your body’s production of these hormones, thereby decreasing your risk. 

Boost mitochondria function to promote cellular health

Certain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants help to protect normal mitochondrial function. Regular consumption of these supplements can normalize cell signaling pathways and ultimately help to support cellular health:

These micronutrients interact with each other in the body to assist in normal cellular metabolism.

Regular physical activity has been linked to a reduced risk of certain cancers, including breast and colorectal cancers.

Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is also important as they provide essential vitamins and minerals that help boost the immune system and protect cells from DNA damage.

Limiting exposure to known environmental toxins, alcohol, and tobacco can also help reduce your cancer risk.

By making some simple changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing certain types of cancer. Eating a low-sugar diet and choosing activities that support mitochondria health helps keep your body healthy and lower your risk. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So, start making small changes today and enjoy the benefits in the future!




cancer, diet, Holistic Medicine

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