Ever since you were a kid, you've heard all the bad things about sugar. Your parents said it will rot out your teeth, and now there's an even bigger reason to stay away from the granulated goodness.
At the conclusion of a nine-year-long study, molecular biologists in Belgium have discovered that sugars stimulate tumor growth. The research, published in the journal Nature Communications, aims to help oncologists better understand tumor growth so that they can potentially offer some new cancer-fighting solutions.
The research found that cancer cells prefer to get their energy from fermenting sugar, which offers a lower energy yield than normal chemical reactions that cells use. This process is known as the Warburg Effect. Most non-cancerous cells in the body gather their energy by aerobic respiration, a process that involves digesting food into energy-rich molecules through chemical processes that use oxygen and release carbon dioxide as a byproduct.
In the lab, researchers observed yeast cells and found that their fermentation process, the same one preferred by cancerous cells, actually stimulated tumor growth. The findings suggest that Ras proteins, the most common cancer-causing genes, help fuel aggressive tumors with their sugar intake. According to the scientists, this process awakens the existing cancer cells which multiply and expand rapidly.
In a press release, the author of the study and Belgian molecular biologist Johan Thevelein wrote, “The hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth.”
Along with previous studies, this newfound understanding of sugar and cancer suggests that biologists can potentially create targeted cancer treatments that exploit the cells need for sugar to help oncologists develop new diet-based strategies for cancer patients. In theory, this is all fantastic news, but more research needs to be conducted since they are still currently unsure of what exactly causes cancer cells to act this way.