Sugar, a risk factor for cancer?

Sugar, a risk factor for cancer?

Consuming too much sugar is bad for your health, it is now a well-documented fact. Too much sugar, especially sugary drinks, increases the risk of tooth decay, overweight and obesity. Sugar abuse is also associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

But what about the links between sugar consumption and cancer? If this relationship is less clear, much research is underway to explore it, and its early results are sobering. What do we know so far? What is left to discover? What sugars are affected? Could artificial sweeteners be an alternative?

Complex carbohydrates or simple sugars?

Proteins, lipids (“fats”), and carbohydrates (“sugars”) make up the majority of our energy intake. Together with water, these three families of nutrients represent 98% of the weight of the food we eat, hence their name “macronutrients”.

The term carbohydrates It covers not only complex carbohydrates, provided in the form of starch by starchy foods like potatoes, rice, or pasta, but also simple sugars, more commonly referred to as “sugars.” These simple sugars are naturally present in certain foods, such as fruits, mainly in the form of fructose, and dairy products, in the form of lactose and galactose. They can also be added by the consumer, the cook or the industrialist, in the form of sucrose.

To determine the impact of a food on the level of blood sugar, called glycemia, two specialists in nutrition sciences, David Jenkins and Tom Wolever, developed the glycemic index in the 1980s. It reflects the ability of a food to change blood sugar within two hours of ingestion.

A also read:
Sugar and diet: what do we really know about the links between the glycemic index and health?

From its glycemic index, we can calculate the glycemic load of a food. This concept, developed in the late 1990s, corresponds to the impact it will have on blood sugar levels, depending on the portion eaten. Since then, several studies have looked at the relationship between sugar intake or glycemic load and cancer risk.

Sugar, Weight Gain, Insulin, and Cancer

Some hypotheses maintain that the role of simple sugars in the appearance of certain cancers would go through weight gain. In fact, studies have established high levels of evidence between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, important sources of simple sugars, and increased risk of overweight and obesity, with overweight and obesity being known risk factors for different types of cancer: cancer esophagus, pancreas, liver, postmenopausal breast, endometrial, kidney, and colorectal cancer.

However, other mechanisms could also be involved, even in the absence of weight gain. In fact, having a diet rich in simple sugars induces a significant production of insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. However, insulin is an agent that is said to be “mitogenic”, that is, it can promote the proliferation of tumor cells.

In 2018, the latest joint report from the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research indicated that a high glycemic load of the diet is a likely risk factor for cancer of the endometrium, the lining that covers the inside the uterus where pregnancy occurs. occurs

Finally, studies carried out within the NutriNet-Santé cohort, in more than 100,000 people, have suggested associations between the consumption of simple sugar, sugar-sweetened beverages and sugary products, as well as glycemic load and an increased risk of cancers, especially of the breast. cancer. And this, regardless of weight gain.

However, more studies are needed to further explore these results. In particular, it is necessary to determine the differences between the types or sources of sugars and the risk of cancer. In fact, one may wonder if the sugars in fruits, sugary drinks, and dairy products have the same effect on health.

Limit intake of simple sugars

Given these potential harmful health effects, public health organizations recommend limiting your intake of simple sugars. In France, the Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire, de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail (Anses) préconise d’en consumer moins de 100 grammes par jour (hors lactose et galactose, qui sont présents dans le lait et the milk products).

It is also recommended that you limit your intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, including sodas and fruit juices, which are on average as high in sugar as sodas, to no more than one per day.

One would think that an alternative would be to substitute artificial sweeteners for sugar. But this might not be an ideal solution, as various experimental and epidemiological studies suggest potential adverse effects of these food additives on health.

Artificial sweeteners, a false good solution?

Artificial sweeteners are sweeteners that are not carbohydrates. They reduce the added sugar content in foods and beverages, and the calories associated with them, while maintaining a sweet taste. Aspartame (E951) or acesulfame potassium (E950) are probably among the best known of these food additives, now consumed by millions of consumers every day.

Present in thousands of products manufactured by the agri-food industries, artificial sweeteners can also be added later to food, in the form of “candies” or powders, for example.

However, for several years, the data seem to indicate that the consumption of these products could not be insignificant. Thus, recent studies carried out as part of the NutriNet-Santé study (a public health study launched in 2009 with the aim of advancing knowledge between diet and health) show an association between the consumption of sweeteners and an increased risk of cancer.

They are, in general, breast cancer and cancers “linked to obesity”, that is, in which obesity is one of the risk factors: cancer of the pancreas, liver, colon-rectum, breast after menopause, endometrium, kidney, esophagus, mouth, larynx, pharynx, stomach, gallbladder, ovaries, and prostate. An increased risk of cardiovascular disease has also been shown.

Beyond these links, it should be noted that health authorities do not recommend sweeteners, which maintain the craving for sweet taste, as a safe alternative to sugar… Rather, they recommend the opposite, that is, tending in general to reduce of the sweet taste. in our food. Sweet, yes, but in moderation, anyway…

#Sugar #risk #factor #cancer

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *