Cancer research has tried for years to find links between various risk factors and cancer. After all, if you could do something to avoid a mesothelioma diagnosis or to slow the progress of the disease once you are a mesothelioma patient, wouldn’t you grab onto that like a life preserver?
Now a researcher has uncovered documents showing that research from the 1950s showed a link between eating sugar and certain types of cancer. The sugar industry suppressed this important cancer research – until now.
Hidden Cancer Research on Sugar Revealed
The Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) was part of the sugar industry trade group the Sugar Association in the 1960s. The SRF funded scientific research on the health effects of sugar.
A famous 1967 study that was secretly funded by SRF minimized the links between sugar and heart disease while emphasizing the connection between fat consumption and heart health. This led to decades of nutrition advice to avoid fats but not sugars to promote heart health. Nutritionists have been rethinking this advice as our understanding of the connection between sugar and a variety of illnesses grows.
Now, previously unreleased cancer research has come to light, thanks to a group of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). While pouring through archives, they discovered Project 259, a study funded by the SRF that ended in 1971.
The study showed a link between heart disease and sugar consumption in rats. It also showed a change in the gut microbiome of rats fed a high sugar diet. That change led the rats to produce abnormally high amounts of an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. Beta-glucuronidase has been linked to the development of bladder cancer.
The study’s findings were never published and this cancer research was buried for over 50 years until the UCSF researchers published their review in PLOS Biology in November 2017.
Recent Cancer Research on Sugar
In recent years, there has been cancer research to uncover the links between sugar and this deadly disease. In fact, the results of a nine-year study published in October of this year represent an important breakthrough in our understanding of cancer and sugar. It showed why the process that cancer cells use to digest sugars may fuel cancer’s unchecked growth.
The study looked at how the Warburg effect works. The Warburg effect refers to the way cancer cells produce energy. All cells break down sugars to feed themselves and growth. However, cancer cells use a different process to metabolize sugars than normal cells. This process does not produce as much energy as the process used by normal cells, so it’s a mystery why cancer cells grow so quickly.
The new study, by scientists at KU Leuven, a university in Belgium, made a significant advance in understanding the way cancer cells metabolize sugar. The study looked at yeast cells because yeast and cancer both use a fermentation process to release the energy in sugar molecules. Yeast cells grow fast, just like cancer cells.
The study found that sugar fermentation in yeast cells produced a compound that activates the RAS protein. This is a gene that helps modulate the growth of cells. It’s a proto-oncogene, which can mutate into a gene that leads to cancer.
This cancer research suggests that it isn’t sugar itself but the compound produced when precancerous cells metabolize sugar that leads to the out of control cell growth common to cancerous tumors, including mesothelioma tumors.
This is just a step on the road to understanding the role of sugar in stimulating the growth of cancer cells. More cancer research is still needed on this important topic.
Should Mesothelioma Patients Eat Sugar?
If you’re wondering whether you should immediately cut sweets out of your diet to slow the progress of your mesothelioma cancer, the answer is not entirely clear.
Some research has shown a correlation between diets high in sugars and certain types of cancer. Studies have also shown that some cancer patients have less recurrence if they avoid sugary foods. However, doctors believe the increased risk may actually come from the weight gain that can follow a high-sugar diet rather than the sugary foods themselves. Obesity has been linked to an increased likelihood of developing cancer.
Many cancer authorities dismiss any link between cancer and sugar consumption. They don’t recommend that cancer patients eliminate sweets from their diets. It’s too soon to say whether the newly-uncovered SRF cancer research, in addition to current studies, will cause them to change these recommendations.
It’s always a good idea to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, including fresh fruits, which are a good source of natural sugars. The nutrition you get from fruits and vegetables will help strengthen your body to deal with the side effects of chemotherapy and other mesothelioma treatments. Sugar can depress your immune system and you need it to fire on all cylinders when you are fighting mesothelioma.
The decision about whether to reduce the amount of sweets you eat (or sugary drinks you drink) or eliminate them altogether is a personal one. Mesothelioma is very often a terminal diagnosis. If it improves the quality of your life to indulge in your favorite flavor of ice cream or your aunt’s butter cookies, then treating yourself to some sweets may be a good choice. If you don’t mind giving up sugary food and drink, however, there’s a chance it could improve your prognosis and it definitely won’t hurt.
Next Steps for Cancer Research
The UCSF researchers who uncovered the hidden SRF cancer research believe that the study they found shows that more research is needed. The time may be ripe for just this type of cancer research. The SRF study was ahead of its time in looking at the connection between changes in the gut microbiome and cancer. Researchers and health practitioners have recently focused greater attention on the microbes that live in our intestinal tract.
There is growing evidence that our health, in many areas, depends on having a healthy balance of different types of microbes in our guts. The old saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach may be literally true – except the stomach is the way to every organ in the body, not just the heart.
If the sugar industry hadn’t hidden the important findings of their cancer research, we might be much closer to understand the connection between sugar and cancer. As it stands, we will have to look to future studies to help us understand the best dietary choices to prevent a mesothelioma and slow its progress after a mesothelioma diagnosis.
If you have a story about sugar consumption and its effects on your health, please leave a comment, send us an email, or give us a call. We would like to hear from people, get their feedback, and keep this subject top of mind in the fight against cancer.