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Sharp Health News

Can sugar cause cancer?

Jan. 15, 2016

Sugar and cancer

For the first time ever, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines have addressed sugar and its negative implications to our health. Published every five years by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, the guidelines reflect the most current thinking on dietary issues.

The most recent update provides a suggested limit on the amount of sugar we consume daily. According to the guidelines, added sugar should only make up about 10 percent of daily calories consumed. This isn’t the first time sugar has been carefully assessed. Recent studies now suggest that including sugar in a daily diet can increase the risk for cancer diagnosis, including breast cancer.

According to Dr. Rodolfo Arcovedo, breast cancer surgeon affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, the negative relationship between sugar and cancer is not a new discovery; it has been a topic of research and discussion since the 1950s.

“Sugar contains glucose and fructose, which are both carbohydrates, that seem to stimulate breast cancer cell mechanisms and allow these cells to grow and metastasize,” says Dr. Arcovedo. “This new development adds to existing evidence that such a concentrated amount of carbohydrates found in artificial sweeteners and high-fructose corn syrup may indeed facilitate breast cancer growth.”

While the new developments of this long-standing research are still in the preliminary stages, it is important to recognize the effect diet has on our overall health. Diets high in sugar increase the risk for developing heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

“Sugar is an artificially purified, energy-packed compound that is capable of overstimulating the body’s metabolic mechanisms including the production of insulin,” explains Dr. Arcovedo. “Too much insulin in the body can cause breast cancer cell growth, inflammation and other processes that are counterproductive to the body.”

So what is the alternative to sugar? The answer lies in the produce aisle — fresh fruits and vegetables. Dr. Arcovedo suggests limiting sugar intake as much as possible, and reading labels to track how much sugar is in the groceries you buy. To help curb that sweet tooth, try natural sweeteners like agave nectar or honey in small amounts and, of course, eat as many tasty fruits and vegetables as you’d like.

Learn more: Top 10 Things You Need to Know About the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

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