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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Do Carbohydrates Cause Cancer?

I first heard about the theory that carbohydrates might cause cancer from a book cover flashing the lurid news like headlines about the death of Princess Diana. I brushed it off as absurd. The idea sounded too far-fetched; ridiculous even. Because how could sugar — good old friendly sweet sugar — cause cancer? After all, don't fruits contain sugar and aren't fruits good for you? So saying "sugar causes cancer" is like saying "fruits cause cancer"; it seemed impossible, and not even worth my time to read the argument. But then along comes Gary Taubes' book Good Calories, Bad Calories, with 600-plus pages of impressive research, making the same argument. Now I stop and listen. Could there be something to it? And now I'm beginning to notice that the scientific literature is replete with studies drawing a similar connection between high carb diets and cancer. So, how could sugar cause cancer? One study explains the frightening process: Sugar leads to a rise in insulin, and "insulin . . . can promote tumour development by inhibiting apoptosis, and by stimulating cell proliferation."1 Apoptosis means normal cell death. By inhibiting normal cell death, insulin effectively says to cancer cells, "Go ahead and grow and never die, and get as big and ugly as you wish"; like a monster out of control. I think about that a lot these days. Including every time I want to bite into a candy bar.
  1. R. Kaaksa, A. Lukanovaa1. 2001. Energy balance and cancer: the role of insulin and insulin-like growth factor-I. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 60: 91-106. doi:10.1079/PNS200070.

1 comment:

Imelda said...

Oh really? this post is so helpful, sis.