New research has linked sugar to rapid tumor growth in cancer patients. It is not the first time a study associates a particular food to cancer, processed meats and trans fats have long been believed to fuel cancer.
Scientists at three institutions in Belgium have recently completed a nine-year experiment that revealed that the type of sugar called glucose can boost tumor growth rate. The findings appeared this week in the journal Nature Communications.
The research team explained that non-cancerous cells get their energy from digested food through a process called aerobic respiration. In the process oxygen is consumed and carbon dioxide is released. Cancerous cells, on the other hand, skip respiration and get their energy from fermented sugar through a long-documented process called the Warburg effect.
During the experiment, researchers tested the Warburg effect theory on yeast cells in laboratory conditions. Yeast cells and cancerous cells are very similar as they would rather get their energy from sugar than respiration. The scope of the experiment was to test the Warburg effect’s strength when it comes to cancer.
Sugar Fuels Cancer
Repeated tests have shown that sugar indeed fuels tumor growth as it can spur the reproduction rate of cells exponentially. The experiment revealed that sugar can boost the reproduction rate of certain genes called Ras proteins which have been long suspected of causing aggressive forms of cancer.
Senior author Johan Thevelein explained that sugar intake can lead to a vicious cycle as cancer cells grow faster and sturdier which prompts more sugar intake. Thevelein thinks his team has just proved that the Warburg effect is tied to tumor aggressiveness.
This link between sugar and cancer has sweeping consequences,
the co-author of the research said.
He is confident the study results could help further research into the matter and more effective cancer treatments. However, the team couldn’t tell why exactly cancerous cells respond so aggressively to sugar.
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