Sugar, the culprit to rising rates of obesity & heart diseases, but high sugar consumption may not only lead to weight gain but also increases the risk of breast cancer; recent study claims.
A new study from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center reveals diets that are high in sugar are a major risk factor for certain types of cancers, especially breast cancer.
“We found that sucrose intake in mice comparable to levels of Western diets led to increased tumor growth and metastasis, when compared to a non-sugar starch diet,” said Peiying Yang, Ph.D., assistant professor of Palliative, Rehabilitation, and Integrative Medicine. “This was due, in part, to increased expression of 12-LOX and a related fatty acid called 12-HETE.”
The results of the study were published in the journal Cancer Research.
According to the team, previous research has identified a link between dietary sugar intake and risk of breast cancer, with some studies suggesting inflammation may play an important role. However, Yang notes that no studies had investigated the direct impact of sugar intake on breast cancer development in animal models or looked at the underlying mechanisms of the association in such models.
In this study, researchers gave mice, fructose and sucrose in amounts similar to what someone who follows a Western diet would consume. They studied mice that were genetically modified for breast cancer research and then placed them into four different groups. Each group was fed a different diet with various amounts of sugar until the mice were about 6 months old.
After six months, results showed that a diet consisting of sugar levels similar to the typical Western diet caused an increase in tumor growth as well as the spread of lung cancer. Among the mice on a sucrose-enriched diet, 50-58 % had developed breast cancer tumors, while only 30 % of the mice on a non-sugar starch-based diet had developed measurable tumors.
Researchers concluded that it is how sugar affects the inflammatory pathway that fuels cancer growth. “We determined that it was specifically fructose, in table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, ubiquitous within our food system, which was responsible for facilitating lung metastasis and 12-HETE production in breast tumors,” notes study coauthor Lorenzo Cohen, a professor of palliative, rehabilitation and integrative medicine at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“This study suggests that dietary sucrose or fructose induced 12-LOX and 12-HETE production in breast tumor cells in vivo,” he adds. “This indicates a possible signaling pathway responsible for sugar-promoted tumor growth in mice. How dietary sucrose and fructose induces 12-HETE and whether it has a direct or indirect effect remains in question.”
[The main sugar culprit is fructose, or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). When we consume sugar, the reward center in the brain is activated. Over time, we build a tolerance for sugar and in turn crave it more. Food companies use HFCS in many foods labeled as “low-fat” to make up for the lack of taste due to less fat. However, this is not a healthy alternative. Also, it is important to identify hidden sugars in food. Sugar may be within many ingredients like fructose sucrose, lactose, maltose, glucose & dextrose. While it is unlikely to avoid sugar completely, yet it’s possible to opt for healthier and natural sugars such as fruits, honey. Artificial sweeteners should be avoided.]
Americans on average individually consume about 100-150 pounds of sugar per year. The finding is particularly important, given the rising sugar consumption in the US. The researchers note that the per capita sugar consumption in the US has reached more than 100 Ibs annually – the equivalent to around 30 tsps of sugar a day.
The researchers note that pinpointing risk factors for breast cancer is a “public health priority,” and their study provides further evidence that dietary sugar intake plays a role in breast cancer development.