Nutrition and Food News:
Does sugar directly feed cancers, boosting their growth? The answer seems to be ‘Yes’ at least in mice according to a study led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medicine. Their study, published in Science, showed that consuming a daily modest amount of high-fructose corn syrup — the equivalent of people drinking about 12 ounces of a sugar-sweetened beverage daily — accelerates the growth of intestinal tumors in mouse models of the disease, independently of obesity. The team also discovered the mechanism by which the consumption of sugary drinks can directly feed cancer growth, suggesting potential novel therapeutic strategies.
Consuming a daily modest amount of high-fructose corn syrup — the equivalent of people drinking about 12 ounces of a sugar-sweetened beverage daily — accelerates the growth of intestinal tumors in mouse models of the disease, independently of obesity, according to new research.
When the researchers provided the sugary drink in the water bottle for the APC-model mice to drink at their will, mice rapidly gained weight in a month. To prevent the mice from being obese and mimic humans’ daily consumption of one can of soda, the researchers gave the mice a moderate amount of sugary water orally with a special syringe once a day. After two months, the APC-model mice receiving sugary water did not become obese, but developed tumors that were larger and of higher-grade than those in model mice treated with regular water.
To help you kick your sugar habit, I found this interview I did with The Dr. Oz magazine a while ago on sugars vs. sugar substitutes questions:
Dr. Oz: You write in your book about your brain on sugar, which I love. Yet when it comes to looking at sugar vs. sugar substitutes (meaning things like aspartame, sucralose, etc), do you think one is worse than the other? If so, which one and why?
Dr. Turner ND: It’s hard to compare sugar versus artificial sweeteners because they have different effects on the body – and sadly both cause negative effects. Even among artificial sweeteners, each has a different chemical make-up – some are completely broken down, some are not. The past 25 years have, however, seen a dramatic increase in the consumption of artificially sweetened foods, including those containing sucralose, aspartame, saccharin, etc. Yet the incidence of being overweight and obese has also increased markedly during this period. Despite the superficial logic that consuming fewer calories will lead to weight loss, the evidence is very clear that using artificial sweeteners can, paradoxically, cause weight gain. Most of us are aware of research showing the links between specific artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin and cancer. But all artificial sweeteners are also known to cause increased cravings and weight gain and may subsequently contribute to insulin resistance. Just as I recommend my patients and readers to avoid hormone disruptors in their cosmetics, you should steer clear of them in your food – including artificial sweeteners and table sugar.
Can you briefly explain what you think are the biggest dangers with sugar? You write, for instance, that sugar may be as addictive as cocaine and that it can cause depression. How about dangers I should point out with artificial sweeteners?
Dr. Turner ND: Dangers with sugar: When we consume foods high in sugar or carbohydrates, the sugar enters our bloodstream, causing blood sugars to rise. Our pancreas responds by secreting insulin. The greater the amount of sugar, the greater the insulin release. Insulin allows for the surge of sugars in the blood stream to enter our cells to either be used as energy or stored as fat. An excess of insulin is the main cause of weight gain, especially belly fat and those dreaded love handles. An understanding of this connection between sugar and insulin, then, is the primary reason why becoming “sugar conscious” offers lasting effects on our body composition. Too much sugar will, however, also cause the following side effects:
Suppress the immune system
• Contribute to hyperactivity, anxiety, depression, concentration difficulties
• Produce a significant rise in triglycerides
• Reduce helpful high density cholesterol (HDLs) and raise harmful cholesterol (LDLs)
• Increase the risk of coronary heart disease and high blood pressure
• Increase fasting levels of blood glucose and contribute to diabetes
• Promote tooth decay
• Speed the aging process, causing wrinkles and grey hair
• Contribute to weight gain and obesity
• Cause toxemia during pregnancy
• Increase the risk of fatty liver disease
• Increase the water retention and bloating
• Cause headaches, including migraines
• Increase bacterial fermentation in the colon
• Increase risk of certain types of cancers including breast, colon and prostate
• Increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease
There is little doubt that repeatedly eating sugar throughout the day eventually leads to chronically high insulin and ultimately to insulin resistance, the underlying metabolic disorder for heart disease and diabetes.
Dangers with artificial sweeteners:
Increased cravings: A not-so-sweet fact is that artificial sweeteners are known to cause increased cravings and weight gain, and may subsequently contribute to pre-diabetes. According to a study by researchers at the University of Texas San Antonio, middle-aged adults who drink diet soft drinks drastically increase their risk of gaining weight later on. The study monitored the weight and soda-drinking habits of more than 600 normal-weight subjects aged 25-64. When researchers followed up with the participants after eight years, they discovered those who consumed one diet soda a day were 65 percent more likely to be overweight than those who drank none. Drinking two or more low or no-calorie soft drinks daily raised the odds of becoming obese or overweight even higher. The real shocker? Participants who drank diet soda had a greater weight gain.
Double-edged insulin sword: Artificial sweeteners appear to be a double-edged dieting sword. They don’t allow leptin release — which signals our brain that we’ve satisfied our hunger — that normally happens when we eat sugar. Moreover, even though artificial sweeteners do not cause our blood sugar to rise, our body still responds as though there’s sugar in our bloodstream by secreting insulin. Between the low leptin and high insulin, our appetite and cravings go haywire. Since high insulin is a stepping stone to type-2 diabetes and obesity, we shouldn’t overlook the connection that so many diabetic, pre-diabetic and overweight people use these types of products.
Broken calorie counters: According to research conducted at Purdue University, artificial sweeteners may also disrupt our natural ability to mentally count calories based on the sweetness of the foods we eat. Psychologists at Purdue University’s Ingestive Behavior Research Center reported that relative to rats that ate yogurt sweetened with glucose (a simple sugar with 15 calories/teaspoon, the same as table sugar), rats given yogurt sweetened with zero-calorie saccharin later consumed more calories, gained more weight, put on more body fat, and didn’t make up for it by cutting back later, all at levels of statistical significance. This disruption may explain why more and more of us seem to lack the natural ability to regulate our appetite and food intake.
Satisfaction not guaranteed: The Purdue University researchers also found that thick liquids aren’t as satisfying, calorie for calorie, as solid foods. Apparently, the taste and feel of food in our mouth influences our learned ability to match our caloric intake with our caloric need. For instance, we learn very early on that both sweet tastes and dense, thick foods signal high-calorie content. Our natural ability to control how much we eat may be weakened when this natural link is impaired by consuming products that contain artificial sweeteners. These foods and drinks prompt us to eat more because they often have a thinner consistency and texture than regular, sugar-sweetened foods. You may have noticed this textural difference in the past when drinking diet versus regular soda or eating yogurt sweetened with artificial sweeteners.
Dr. Oz: Are there, though, any sugars that might not be as harmful to the body/ Perhaps stevia? What about brown sugar? Honey? Agave nectar?
Dr. Turner ND: There are many ways to sweeten your drinks, smoothies or recipes without resorting to sugar, fructose or artificial sweeteners. Agave and brown sugar, although less processed, still illicit an insulin response. I recommend choosing products with xylitol, stevia, luo han, or better still, opt to include cinnamon or unsweetened cocoa powder (i.e. in your shakes) to add taste. Different brands of natural sweeteners can vary in taste so you may have to do a little trial-and-error before discovering your favourite one.
Dr. Oz: What’s your bottom line about using sugar or sugar substitutes? Should readers try to limit all? If so, do you have suggestions on how to limit sugar in the diet?
Dr. Turner ND: I teach my patients and readers that reducing excess insulin the number one thing you can do today to improve your health, restore their metabolism, banish belly fat and age younger. The key to kicking the sugar habit is to ensure your each meal and snack is hormonally balanced with protein, fats and the right low glycemic carbs for your metabolism (I believe everyone poesses a unique ability to metabolism carbs – the more damaged your metabolism (aka. Insulin resistant you are – the less starchy carbs – even those that are low GI like oatmeal, sweet potato, brown rice you should include – but rather one should select options like green vegetables, legumes, quinoa or rye as examples that are lower in sugar that impact the body. You will know your diet is hormonally balanced and when you are choosing the right carbs for your metabolism when you are free of cravings, your energy is high, your mood is balanced and your body is running efficiently.
I recommend avoiding sugar outside of your cheat meal (yes, I advocate cheating on your diet!). When we reduce calories overall, our body adapts by lowering our metabolism as a survival mechanism. Having a cheat meal keeps our metabolism going and actually increases our long term success.
A few simple rules regarding your cheat meal: first, you must earn your cheat meal by staying on course throughout the week. Second, if your weight is up three to four days later, you’ve overdone it or included items that don’t agree with your chemistry. You can choose to avoid sugar, gluten, dairy, if needed.