Sugar may fuel cancer cell growth

Researchers have found new evidence that shows a strong link between sugar consumption and cancer.
By Harry Marcolis | Oct 21, 2017
A group of Belgian researchers have discovered a new link between cancer and the amount of sugar a person eats, a recent study published in the journalNature Communications reports.

The team first began linking sugar and cancer back in 2008 as a way to better understand the Warburg effect, a process that occurs when tumor cells make energy through a rapid breakdown of glucose that is not seen in normal cells.

That research soon revealed that yeast with high levels of sugar overstimulates the proteins often found inside tumors, which then gives the harmful cells energy to grow. They also discovered that cancer cells appear to feed more quickly on sugar fermentation than aerobic respiration, a process non-cancerous cells use to break down digested food.

By observing yeast cells -- which are similar to cancer cells -- the team concluded that dangerous tumors crave sugar more than anything else. As a result, they suggest that sugar could help activate cancer genes and cause harmful cells to reproduce at a faster rate.

"[The research] is able to explain the correlation between the strength of the Warburg effect and tumor aggressiveness," said Johan Thevelein, a researcher from KU Leuven, according to USA Today. "This link between sugar and cancer has sweeping consequences. Our results provide a foundation for future research in this domain, which can now be performed with a much more precise and relevant focus."

This study is important because it sheds new light on one of the most researched subjects in medicine and could give insight into how cancer develops. However,there is still a long way to go to fully understand the link between sugar and cancer. The evidence reveals a correlation, but it does not prove that eating a low-sugar diet will change or affect cancer risk. More trials will be needed before such claims can be made.

"The findings are not sufficient to identify the primary cause of the Warburg effect," said Thevelein, in a statement. "Further research is needed to find out whether this primary cause is also conserved in yeast cells."

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