The Link Between Sugar and Cancer

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The link between sugar and cancer
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Sugar is everywhere in the modern diet and there’s no doubt that it’s making us obese, fatigued, and sick. You can’t turn on the television without one commercial after another advertising candy, soda, or sugary breakfast cereals.

While many of us have an intuition or research that makes us leery of sugar, there is plenty of media trying to convince us otherwise. Remember the “it’s just corn” commercials claiming that high fructose corn sugar dangers were all in our heads and that HFCS is similar to “just eating fruit?”

Except for the minor detail that corn is not the same thing at all and the higher fructose content has a huge impact on our bodies. All calories are not equal and that’s especially important to remember when it comes to sugar.

It’s true that the cells in your body use “sugar” as a fuel source but it runs more efficiently on natural sources such as vegetables and fruits. The sugar I’m talking about here is the processed, empty calorie kind. It provides nothing in the way of nutrition or sustainable energy…but it could be taking a lot from your body.

Sugar in the United States is often made from sugar beets and corn. The majority of all sugar beet and corn crops are genetically modified (GMO). (1)

A Focused Media Blitz that Works

The primary demographic of the sugar campaign is young people and that makes me furious. Kids’ sugar intake is ten times higher than it was in 1900 – it’s the main source of their dietary calories – and nothing good is coming from it. As a mom, I’ve watched the trends change from (not so good) when I was a kid to absolutely awful today. (2)

It should shock me but it doesn’t that the population in the United States consumes an average of about 170 pounds of sugar annually. That means a bunch of people eat less (like my family and probably yours) so many others are eating even more.

The way society is eating shows in our health statistics. In all our history, we’ve never been sicker. Cases of diabetes, heart disease, obesity (and childhood obesity), neurological disorders, behavioral disorders, autoimmune diseases, and cancer are out of control. Consider this:

1890: 3-in-100,000 people diagnosed with diabetes

2012: 8,000-in-100,000 people diagnosed with diabetes

Modern medical technology struggles to keep up with our sickening society but you can’t fix a problem like this with a machine or a pill. This requires an evaluation of what we’re eating, how much we’re eating, and what it’s doing to our health (as well as an adjustment in some important lifestyle factors like sleep, toxin exposure and stress).

The long-term effects of this seemingly harmless enemy are well documented. Countless studies show the dangers of sugar on human health, but have done nothing to change the massive use of it in our food supply. Even foods you wouldn’t necessarily consider “sweet” (like bread, yogurt, and oatmeal) are packed with sugar.

Sugar cravings have a scientific basis. In a shocking study in France, Dr. Serge Ahmed offered his rats a choice between table sugar and cocaine. They chose the sugar (and the resulting dopamine) just like so many of us do. You get the “high,” feel great, start to crash, and go for more sugar to get the “high” back again.

The Link Between Sugar and Cancer

You know what else loves sweets? Cancer cells.

When sugar molecules attach to the proteins in your body, it is called glycosylation. Cells like these are present in high quantities in most types of cancer tissue. Though they were identified long ago, the findings were ignored since they were believed to be harmless. It was only recently that scientists fit the pieces together. It changed everything they knew about the sugar-cancer connection.

Researchers with the University of Copenhagen confirmed that not only are these sugar byproducts present in tumors, they actively stimulate growth. Author Catharina Steentoft said, “It is a rather big step forward since it gives us an entirely new understanding of something we have worked many years to grasp. It guides our entire field of research towards new ways to proceed in the battle against cancer.” (3)

Simply put, cancer cells love sugar and grow really well when you eat it.

Here’s why: When you eat sugars (good and bad ones), your body produces insulin to regulate the effect on your blood, metabolism, and cell growth. The more sugar you eat, the more insulin your pancreas must produce.

Eventually, your body doesn’t react to the insulin as effectively so your body makes even more. This is called insulin resistance and it’s a condition that 70 million Americans have that can eventually lead to full diabetes when the pancreas finally fails.

Healthy and cancerous cells use the hormone insulin to fuel growth so the more you have, the more cancer grows, multiplies, and spreads.

Harvard Medical School Cancer Center researchers found that 80% of all cancers mutate and mimic the effect of insulin. Their current focus is the creation of an insulin inhibitor for use in cancer treatment protocols. (4)

This may be part of the reason that cancer rates and diabetes rates seem to be rising at about the same pace. Listen to this podcast episode with Paul Jaminet on the Perfect Health Diet, Carbs, and Cancer Research.

University Rey Juan Carlos researchers identified that catenin, a protein used in the formation and growth rate of cancer cells, relies solely on blood sugar levels.

The findings, published in Molecular Cell, were explained by team member Dr. Custodia Garcia-Jimenez. “We were surprised to realize that changes in our metabolism caused by dietary sugar impact our cancer risk. Changing diet is one of easiest prevention strategies that can potentially save a lot of suffering and money.” (5)

There is no doubt that we’re all getting too much sugar in our diets. We need to get off this up and down “sugar high” ride and kick the habit for good

Experts estimate that more than half of the cancers diagnosed in the world are preventable. Removing refined sugars from your daily eating plan is an excellent step in the right direction.

There are several new ways that experts are fighting cancer in 26 countries around the world, and some astonishing methods being used that are virtually unknown in the United States.

I recently found out about a new docu-series called The Truth About Cancer that delves into effective cancer treatments used around the world with amazing results. If you’re interested in learning more about the link between cancer and sugar and some of these new treatment methods, I’d recommend checking out this 9-part series (it will screen online at no cost in a couple of weeks- check out the trailer here).

1. United States Department of Agriculture; USDA to Deregulate Genetically Engineered Sugar Beets
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Consumption of Added Sugars Among US Adults
3. Science Daily; Specific Sugar Molecule Causes Growth of Cancer Cells
4. The New York Times; Is Sugar Toxic?
5. Science Daily; Excess Sugar Linked to Cancer

How much sugar does your family consume? Were you aware of the link between sugar and cancer? Share below!

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


69 responses to “The Link Between Sugar and Cancer”

  1. Gwendolyn Price Avatar
    Gwendolyn Price

    Hello Katie,
    I came across your Wellness Mama website (I love it) while doing research on how to make homemade kombucha because it is too expensive in the stores, as you well stated. However, I love to drink the kombucha but decided that continuing to purchase it at the store was not an option any longer. I want to make it at home. I am using your links to Kombucha Kamp to get the supplies that I need. So, this is my question: in the ingredients, you state to use a SCOBY – and 1 cup of liquid from a previous batch of kombucha for each gallon of sweetened tea. As a first starter and newbie I will not have the “1 cup of liquid from a previous batch”. Do I buy the 50X Kombucha Concentrate $12.95 to use as a substitute for the 1 cup of liquid; it states impart that it will “Supercharge your Kombucha brew to prevent mold and kickstart the fermentation process”? Please advise. Thank you. Stay well & stay safe.

    1. Katie Wells Avatar

      The scoby comes ready to go from Kombucha Kamp and has liquid with it. I got my initial one from a friend and also go some liquid, but you should be able to start as is with the one from Kombucha kamp.

  2. Gail Avatar

    Saying no to sugar is a big part of Saying No to Cancer, which I learned in 2007, recovering from Stage 4.

  3. Mia Avatar

    But people have cured their cancer, among a wide variety of other diseases, using primarily fruit…our body craves sugar for a reason. I believe there is more to the story than just, “sugar”…

    1. Mike Avatar

      That is right. Raw organic fruit is the best carb because it wants to be eaten so it makes the best nutritional profile. Seeds do not want to be eaten so they contain natural toxins. The cancer and candida do not eat the sugar when accompanied by the alkaline nutrients in fruit.

  4. Chrystal Avatar

    Hi Katie! Thanks for sharing this series with us! Wow! What a blessing to be able to learn so much. Our family has been doing a lot of house cleaning. I used to drink so much soda and I haven’t had one in 11 days now! Praise the Lord!! I have however been making some of your healthier options for treats, so by no means are we depriving ourselves?
    Anyways, I would like to know if it’s ok for me to consume raw honey while nursing? I have taken out most of the processed white sugar and thought raw honey and coconut sugar were better options. Would really appreciate your feedback. Thanks so much!

  5. Jessica Avatar

    Thank you for this information, I have read it in a magazine I get and was astounded! I am glad you mentioned it here so others can have the information. I have read your blog for a couple of months and found the posts helpful. I do not believe you were trying to instill fear in anyone but to share information so others could be aware. As a Christian I try not to worry about my health but when I do stopping to pray really helps me. I do have diabetes and high blood pressure and have had 6 loved ones die from cancer. My husband had cancer and one of the medicines they gave him made him crave sugar and he would eat chocolate covered cream filled doughnuts by the box full and now I think that is why he died from this dreaded disease along with not have a positive attitude. please keep the information coming and thank you very much.
    To Ann I think it was, how did you cure your autoimmune disease?

  6. Lynda Avatar

    Dear Katie,
    Thanx for all the info on your blog. I watched this cancer series with Ty Bollinger back in October and gleaned some good ideas to incorporate into every day life. For the ones who find all this overwhelming, just use one piece of info at a time till it becomes habit. You will be surprised how easy living a healthier life can be. I have 30 something children, and am surprised that parents these days still have the trouble I had 30 years ago, trying to bring up healthy families. It is hard to fight Big Pharma and huge corporations like Monsanto who claim their GMO products will feed more people. Incidentally, we humans can waste a lot of edible food. We can be taught to use our food wisely; and, if farmers would get more support to raise organic, we could feed the world without chemicals. I, too have lost friends and family to cancer. There is much fear about cancer that doctors and the media promote to make you take their expensive treatments; and, cancer is big business. I agree we should try not to worry and that is hard. Thank you, Katie, for soldering on in a world that seems bent on making the human race extinct..

  7. Ruth Avatar

    Wonderful post. I lost family members to this dreadful Cancer. I’m aware of the sugar link as well, but I love sweet and it’s so difficult. But thank you so much I will try to use the mentioned alternatives. Between my job and home I will try to be present for the “The truth about Cancer” series. Thanks again

  8. Toni Avatar

    I know refined sugar and artificial sugars and the things that masquerade as sugar are all dangerous to our bodies, especially in the amounts we American’s eat (at least statistics indicate that “we” eat that much sugar). However, I was curious and suspicious when I clicked the link you provided and saw the trailer for the series you included in your article. Ty Bollinger’s name is at the bottom of the initial page but there are no credentials listed, and no organization was displayed as sponsoring the ad or as having done research on the topic. So I searched Ty Bollinger. And found this article which purports to debunk Mr, Bollinger and the claims he makes in his series. I prefer to be fully informed and make up my own mind about such matters as the causes of cancer and what I can do to prevent me or my family developing the disease. I struggle daily with my own sugar addition and think it’s a no-brainer to do my best to eliminate all but the sugars which naturally occur in whole foods. Just want to bring some balance to the conversation. Here’s the link to that article I cited:

  9. Michelle Avatar

    After I lost 5 family members in one year to cancer, I made it my mission to understand it.

    Our bodies are capable of so many things, surely we can get through cancer without harmful treatments.

    I have been inspired by Chris Wark- and his blog Chris Beat Cancer,

    The late Max Gerson- the doctor behind the Gerson Therapy and the Gerson Institute. (one friend got over her breast cancer following their nutrition therapy protocol)

    And Doctor Burzynski’s cancer documentary: ‘Cancer is Serious Business.’

    In South Africa, there are many alternative therapies as well…

    Bottom line is that you just have to be strong, open-minded and keep searching and loving yourself!!

    Looking forward to The Truth About Cancer series!


  10. Catherine Dougherty Avatar
    Catherine Dougherty

    Hi-I’m a Compound Herbalist.
    Those that use substitutes for sugar: Try Star West Botanicals for your Stevia. They will provide the origin. As for honey, buy from local farmers. Stores have the usual supply that comes from China or other places,and often, it’s old, or not good/real honey.
    And as for eating out, “eating clean” can be a tough job. The simpler your food, the less chance it has chemicals, additives, sugars,MSG and bad oils.
    I work with folks that have cancer and various ailments. The best suggestion I offer is to eat less, buy from the perimeter of the grocery (produce, meat and water) and avoid all packaged, canned and bottled foods and beverages. Few “products” today are the same as 10 years ago. Many companies have added chemicals to increase shelf life in order to get the sale. Those chemicals are endocrine disruptors and contribute to making the body ill in addition to sugars.

  11. Lindsey smitherman Avatar
    Lindsey smitherman

    Hi Katie, I have been watching The Truth About Cancer and I am overwhelmed! It’s great information and I am thankful. But there is also SO MUCH they are saying to do and not do that I find difficult to keep up with! I wanted to ask you what your actual daily anti-cancer regimen is….and maybe you don’t have one exactly because I know it is a whole life style and that is what you are about. I guess I just am curious what things you do every single day as part of your health care. I think you have talked about an ACV drink and your veggie smoothie. I try to eat some raw veggies and fruits every day and I mostly eat healthy but being busy busy and having little ones does make it hard!

  12. Ann Avatar

    Hi Katie! I love your podcast and this blog. I have been thinking about sugar a lot lately and I have significantly limited it for my children and myself. I have a family history of cancer, interestingly in the side of my family who were multi generational farmers who were eating organic WAY before organic was cool, haha. My granny made lots of fermented foods, especially sourkraut as that is part of our German heritage. The beef that they ate was grass fed because that was a cheaper way of feeding the cattle. The poultry was of course free range and frankly I just don’t get it. I have no insight into this and I guess it’s something I may never understand.
    Lately a lot of people I know have been touting supplements that are part of a MLM company (Plexus) that claim to help your body balance blood sugar and decrease inflammation. Sounds like a panacea, but I don’t want to overlook something that may be legitimate. Several of these acquaintances have linked to your articles on social media regarding gut health and the like. I’m extremely skeptical as these people selling these products are making money hand over fist and I just don’t think it seems legitimate. Where are the studies proving that their probiotics are the best, etc? What do you think about this? Any input you could offer or research you’ve done on these very popular supplements would be so appreciated.

    1. Marie Avatar

      I second this! Plexus and their products are a huge thing in my area.

  13. Dr. Deborah Avatar
    Dr. Deborah

    Moms of young ones, keep rolling along feeding your kids the right things whenever you’re in charge of what goes in their mouth. I know and agree that it’s so frustrating that the junk food is pervasive, and they’re eating it outside your home. But as the mom of an 18-year old young man, what I see is that he’s grown up to make the right choices. Is his diet perfect? No way; he’s a teenager. And the last couple of years were harrowing in much more significant ways than nutrition. BUT. The nutrition information he’s absorbed from my years of feeding him well, is literally in his cells. He knows the difference between nutritious food and crap, and he asks me questions. I’m positive he eats better than 95% of his peers, and he’s set up well for the years to come as his frontal lobe kicks in, and perhaps actual discernment arrives :).

  14. Brian Kelley Avatar
    Brian Kelley

    Avoiding sugars is such an involved choice, but one that’s worth it. Especially when you’re forming your children’s eating habits. It may take some getting used to, but once you get in the groove, sugary things will feel way too sweet. And the processed foods… Don’t even get me started. I think we all know much of an enemy they are. The best way to avoid high sodium, high sugar, and low value is to avoid processed food all together. My family knows–If the food doesn’t have a relatively limited shelf life, we don’t buy it.

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