There is a tremendous amount of confusion about the relationship between carbohydrates, glucose, sugar, and cancer. I receive emails every week from people who have been told that they should not eat fruit because the sugar in fruit causes rapid tumor growth; that carbohydrate consumption is not advisable for cancer patients; and that consuming sugar will promote the faster growth of tumor cells. In this article, I will address the many misunderstandings about this issue. To do so will require some knowledge of how the body utilizes carbohydrates from food.
Carbohydrates provide the body with energy. Glucose is the simplest carbohydrate and cells convert glucose into energy in order to function. This conversion process, in simple terms, involves chemical reactions that create adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
Glucose, fructose and galactose are monosaccharides and are absorbed through the intestinal lining into the bloodstream. Lactose, sucrose and maltose are disaccharides (containing two monosaccharides) and are converted to monosaccharides by enzymes in the digestive tract. All of these sugars are simple carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates are known as starches. Complex carbohydrates are comprised of chains of glucose. The digestive system breaks complex carbohydrates down into their constituent glucose molecules so that the glucose can enter the bloodstream. It takes a much longer time for the body to breakdown complex carbohydrates and to absorb the glucose byproduct into the bloodstream. The consumption of a candy bar or other simple sugar will result in glucose entering the blood stream at the rate of about 20 calories per minute, while consuming complex carbohydrate results in glucose entering the bloodstream at about 2 calories per minute.
The entrance of glucose into the bloodstream signals the pancreas to release insulin, which enables glucose to cross the cell membrane and subsequently be converted to fuel, or stored in the form of glycogen in the muscles and liver for future energy needs.
Cancer cells consume large amounts of glucose in order to fuel energy production and growth. Increased amounts of glucose are needed in order for the cells to become rapidly dividing cancer cells. Increased levels of proteins are needed for glucose transport and increases in metabolic rate.
An individual cannot prevent cancer cells from consuming glucose by avoiding fruit or sugar. The cancer cells will obtain glucose from grains, potatoes and other starches in order to fuel their abnormal growth.
So, how does one resolve the conundrum resulting from the fact that the best diets for humans is a diet based on complex carbohydrates, which become fuel for cancer cells? The best option is to prevent cancer by practicing dietary excellence and optimal habits. We know from the vast body of research outlined in The China Study that animal protein is a powerful cancer promoter, and that high-fat diets increase the incidence of cancer. Practicing dietary excellence and optimal habits is the best way to prevent cancer.
For individuals who have cancer, the manipulation of diet alone is not usually sufficient to reverse the disease. And avoiding carbohydrates is unlikely to result in a cure, since the body needs carbohydrate for energy and function.
Comprehensive treatment plans are required in order to provide the best chance of cure and survival for cancer patients, and the best resources for identifying them are organizations like www.mossreports.com and The Cancer Control Society. Therapeutic fasting is effective for some forms of cancer, and TrueNorth in Rohnert Park, California, is the best facility in which to complete a fast under medical supervision. There are some promising treatment protocols in the development stage that have the potential for interrupting the utilization of glucose by cancer cells, causing them to undergo apoptosis (cell death). It is not yet determined whether or not these will be best used as primary or adjuvant therapies.