The Truth About Sugar and Prostate Cancer
We've all heard the phrase "sugar feeds cancer." The truth is that it is a bit more complex than that, and I find that terms like that lead to guilt eating. In this brief newsletter, I want to explain how sugar works in the body, how and when it may contribute to prostate cancer, and how to practice healthier eating habits.
Remember that this is a nutritional guideline for healing your body and to help improve your quality of longevity despite a prostate cancer diagnosis. Recommendations are not the law on how to eat better, nor a dogma diet, temporary eating program for weight loss, or obsession with any macronutrient. No one food causes or cures prostate cancer. Chronic poor dietary habits combined with genetics and environmental factors increase the risk of the disease.
How to think about Carbs and Sugar
Carbohydrates (Carbs) or sugar are not good or bad. Carbs and sugar are not the same, but all carbs turn to sugar in the form of glucose before it is utilized by cells for energy production.
Refined and processed carbs (simple carbs) are more like sugar, and they are stripped of vitamins, minerals, and fiber and can lead to health problems, including prostate cancer, when eaten often. Simple carbs turn to glucose too rapidly and are absorbed too quickly, which creates chaos in your body by having too much glucose in your blood at one time (hyperglycemia). Hyperglycemia leads to insulin resistance.
Complex, unrefined carbs, on the other hand, give your body essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that serve as prebiotics to feed the microbiome. Complex carbs even contain protein. Having all essential nutrients intact promotes health and reduces the risk of disease. Optimal carbs carry nutrients like vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber and are absorbed slowly. You want to eat complex carbs and avoid simple carbs and sugars; those are the worst, but they often taste good and lead to overeating.
How Sugar Works in Your Body
After digestion, carbs break down to sugar in the intestines, and then that glucose is released into your bloodstream, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar (glucose). The increase in blood glucose should be slow and steady to sustain health and lower disease risk. Under normal circumstances, when blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream and acts as the key that unlocks the cells' doors, allowing glucose to enter the cell for energy or stored as glycogen for later use.
So, in the body's infinite wisdom, your body stores glucose in fat cells to use for energy in case you run out of food at some point in the future. The problem is that we never really run out of food, so excess sugar consumption is stored as fat, which leads to all sorts of health problems.
Sugar found naturally in fruits (in the form of fructose) or vegetables is not a problem when eaten in normal portions. Processed sugar, like white sugar, is processed from sugar cane or beets and once removed from its natural composition and concentrated to just sugar, it creates havoc in the body and contributes to all sorts of health problems. Simple sugar is a problem in two ways:
What is Insulin Resistance
Too much sugar consumption leads to hyperglycemia, the primary effect of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a medical condition in which the body's cells do not respond effectively to the hormone insulin and, therefore, cannot carry glucose into the cells for energy.
In individuals with insulin resistance, the cells, particularly those in muscle, fat, and liver tissue, do not respond as well to insulin signals. As a result, the pancreas produces more insulin to compensate for the decreased effectiveness, leading to higher-than-normal insulin levels in the bloodstream, known as hyperinsulinemia. Hyperinsulinemia leads to Insulin resistance, which then leads to chronic inflammation, a major cause of almost all life-threatening diseases like hypertension (high blood pressure), atherosclerosis (narrowing of arteries), and an elevated risk of heart disease, stroke, autoimmune disorders, and cancer.
Foods that cause hyperglycemia and insulin resistance when over consumed are:
Flour, including whole wheat bread (whole wheat bread is not healthier than white bread, and both can cause hyperglycemia), cereals, pasta, and baked goods like pastries, cookies, and cakes. Fruit juices contain a high concentration of sugar in the form of fructose and should be avoided. To make one glass of orange juice, it takes about six oranges, which you are unlikely to eat in one sitting. Also, other nutrients from the orange are left behind when made into a juice, so the sugar (fructose) rushes into your bloodstream, causing too much insulin secretion.
When sugar is consumed in the form of baked goods, cereals, fruit juice, soda, or any other form, it quickly rushes to your bloodstream and causes high blood sugar (hyperglycemia).
Foods that protect from hyperglycemia and reduce the risk of disease are:
The relationship between sugar consumption and prostate cancer
The relationship between sugar and prostate cancer is a complex topic, but scientific research has provided some insights into how the two are related. Diets high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can lead to elevated blood sugar levels, which in turn can lead to increased insulin production. High insulin levels may promote the growth of some cancer cells, including those in prostate tissue.
Excessive sugar consumption has been associated with obesity and chronic inflammation, both of which are risk factors for various types of cancer, including prostate cancer. Many Human and animal studies have shown that high-sugar diets can accelerate tumor growth in prostate cancer.
Remember, the whole XY Wellness program is better than the sum of its parts. A cancer-smart diet, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy body weight are crucial for overall health and may also contribute to reducing cancer risk. There is always some wiggle room to mindfully break the rules and enjoy a cake at a birthday party if you choose to, guilt-free. Lastly, targeted dietary supplements help mitigate any dietary transgression, so keep at it. As always, we are here to help you thrive despite prostate cancer. Let me know how we can help.
Dr. Geo, Co-founder & Medical Director