Sugar Feeds Cancer Cells
The link between sugar intake and the growth of malignant cancer cells is nothing new. As early as 1984, scientists discovered that immature sugar molecules in the form of O-glycans were overexpressed in cancer patients. But now, researchers at the University of Copenhagen have shown that O-glycans actually stimulate the growth of cancer cells.
Diabetes and Obesity Linked to Higher Cancer Risk
While high blood sugar levels have long been known to cause damage to cells and increase the risk of diabetes and obesity, a recent study discovered that diabetes and obesity may increase a person’s risk of developing cancer, specifically pancreatic and colon cancer, by twofold.
Scanning for Sugar
The average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of added sugars per day, according to the National Cancer Institute. While most of you health nuts know not to gulp down a gigantic soda, munch on a donut for breakfast, or spike your daily coffee with a spoonful of sweetener, sugar is a sneaky ingredient that finds its way into many foods and drinks. Around 1990, the USDA estimated that the average person consumed about 70 pounds of sugar each year. Just 9 years later, the estimate rose to 150 pounds, an increase attributed in part to high fructose corn syrup in processed foods.
Don’t be fooled by fancy names that just mean more sugar. To name a few: dextrose, glucose, sucrose, maltose, molasses, beet sugar, malt syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, and evaporated cane juice.
Are You Maxing out Your Sugar Intake?
The American Heart Association suggests that added sugars should make up less than 7% of your total calorie intake. And this figure doesn’t include naturally-occurring sugars found in fruits and dairy products. For a 2,100 calorie per day diet, this means your absolute maximum intake of sugar should be 36 grams, or 9 teaspoons. While that might sound like a lot, you may be surprised to discover just where sugar hides in your diet.
Seven Sneaky Sources of Sugar
1. Breakfast Cereals. You know to avoid the colorfully packaged stuff directed at kids, but what about those “natural” “good source of fiber” labels drawing you in? Many packaged breakfast cereals have up to 56% sugar, even if they “look” healthy at first glance. Take a look:
- Quaker Oats Cracklin’ Oat Bran with 14 grams of sugar per ¾ cup – that’s about 19 grams of sugar per cup of cereal.
- Quaker Oats Instant Oatmeal, Cinnamon Roll with 17 grams of sugar in 1 envelope
- Kellogg’s Smart Start Strong Heart, Toasted Oat with 14 grams of sugar in 1 1/4 cup
Gluten-free granolas are surprisingly often even worse:
- Giddy Up & Go Granola has 8 grams of sugar listed per 9/16th of a cup – that’s about 15 grams per cup of cereal.
- Bakery on Main Nutty Cranberry Maple Granola packs 8 grams of sugar per 1/3rd cup serving – but that’s a whopping 24 grams of sugar per cup of cereal!
- Udi’s Au Naturel Granola shows only 7 grams of sugar per 1/4th cup serving – but that’s (gasp) 28 grams per cup of granola!
2. Flavored Yogurt. Yes, yogurt can be a good source of protein and good bacteria but you’ll want to ditch the pre-flavored kinds: they’re likely full of sweeteners and other undesirable additives. Even a 6-ounce serving of plain yogurt has about 13 grams of naturally-occurring sugar from milk, but adding fruit and other flavorings doubles the sugar content to 26 grams! For instance, Yoplait Original 99% Fat-Free, Lemon Burst contains 31 grams of sugar.
3. Flavored Beverages. Left alone, water and tea contain zero grams of sugar, but when they’re dressed up with flavorings and promises of added energy, these seemingly healthy drinks can become sugar traps. The numbers will make you pack your own water bottle:
- Snapple Agave Melon Antioxidant Water contains 33 grams of added sugar per 20 ounce bottle.
- Starbucks Vanilla Frappuccino moves up to 45 grams of sugar in a more petite 13.7 ounce bottle.
- Sobe Green Tea adds even more at 50 grams of sugar in a 20 ounce bottle.
- Starbucks Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha with whipped cream almost doubles that number at 95 grams! Yikes!
4. Peanut Butter. On average, 1 cup of processed peanut butter contains 24 grams of sugar. Skippy’s Natural Peanut Butter Spread lists sugar as the second ingredient and has about 3 grams of sugar per 2 tablespoons. Choosing peanut butter made solely from ground peanuts reduces sugar content by 50%.
5. Tomato Sauce & Ketchup. Check out the label on your tomato-based sauces – odds are that sugar is one of the first ingredients. Though fresh tomatoes are naturally sweet, manufacturers aren’t always using the best produce, so they dress them up with loads of sugar. For instance, half a cup of Newman’s Own Tomato & Basil sauce packs 12 grams of sugar, while just one tablespoon of Heinz Tomato Ketchup packs 4 grams of sugar! Some stats say that up to 50% of ketchup calories are from sugar.
6. Processed Meats. Sugar is often added to hamburgers to reduce shrinkage before cooking, fed to livestock prior to slaughter to improve flavor, and added to various lunchmeats. Three small Johnsonville Brown Sugar & Honey breakfast sausages, for example, contain 4 grams of added sugar. Three ounces of Columbus Peppered Salame has 3 grams of sugar.
7. Salad Dressing. When manufacturers take the fat out of salad dressings to create “light” options, they often replace it with hefty helpings of sugar – up to 29%! One tablespoon of Low-fat French dressing contains 6 grams of sugar, and a serving of Ken’s Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette logs 12 grams of sugar. Hmm. You might want to make your own simple dressing from olive oil, lemon, your favorite herbs, and a pinch of pepper!
1 in 3 Major Cancers Preventable with Diet & Exercise
So what’s the good news? The World Health Organization estimates that at least 1 in 3 of the main cancers can be prevented simply by improving diet and increasing physical activity. So, clearly, the call is to kick the sugar and do something like kick-boxing or flutter kicks in the pool. You’ll be doing your cells a real favor as they work to keep you healthy.