A common question Pattie and I get here at HelpWithCancer.org concerns the consumption of sugar. Most of us have heard the saying “Sugar feeds cancer.” I recently received an e-mail asking “How and why?” Here is the response to her question from Frank Heasley, PhD:
While it’s true that all digestible carbohydrates end up as single sugars when they are metabolized, it is important to remember that your body must metabolize those sugars. Therein lies the problem.
Complex carbohydrates, are metabolized at a slower rate than simple sugars.
When complex carbohydrates are metabolized, the slow release of simple sugars gives your system time to adapt to the increased levels. This means that your insulin levels rise gradually, and your cellular uptake of sugars also happens gradually.
However, when you dump a large amount of simple sugar into your system, your insulin level has to rise quickly to accomodate it. Then what happens is that your sugar levels plummet suddenly, and you are left with excess insulin. It is important to note here that recent publications indicate that insulin is an important growth factor for myeloma (cancer) cells. Anyway, when this is repeated over and over again, as when we consume cookies, cakes, candy and pop, your systems ultimately tire out and you get Type II diabetes.
The rapidity with which sugars are released into your system is known as the “glycemic index”, and there’s a lot written about it.
Now that I have Type II diabetes from taking dexamethasone, it has become necessary to monitor my blood sugar (glucose) levels. I have found that if you pay attention to foods that retard sugar absorption vs foods that rapidly release glucose, you can control it reasonably well and avoid glucose and insulin spikes.
Here is my working model:
Foods that release sugar rapidly can be eaten in limited amounts, so long as they are consumed with other foods that slow sugar absorption.
Foods that slow sugar absorption are high in either protein or fat, or both. Examples: meat, fish, oils etc.
Foods that release sugar quickly: anything sweet, including honey, sugar, fruit and fruit juices. Simple carbohydrates are better, but still release sugar quickly. These include anything with simple starches, like flour and potatoes, regardless of whether “whole wheat” or other claims are made.
Complex carbohydrate foods, which release sugar slowly, include legumes (beans), and high starch nuts (peanuts, cashews, pecans).
Foods that are fried in oil, like potato chips and batter dipped items release sugar slowly because they are digested slowly.
Hope this helps.
Frank Heasley, Ph.D.
Bacteriology, UC Berkeley 1978 (retired)
Thanks, Frank! Yes, that does help. One of the better explanations I have read to a very common question.
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat