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Cancer Cells Love Fructose

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Cancer Cells Love Fructose

I keep hearing that all sugars are the same–and that even high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is no different from any other sugar. Even if my instinct tells me differently, industry spin masters keep trying to assuage our concern about sweeteners. (And make us feel like fools for wondering about it.) With a new study from a research team at UCLA, the cat may finally be out of the bag: Pancreatic cancer cells use fructose to divide and proliferate.

Although it’s widely known that cancers thrive on the simple sugar glucose, this is the first time a connection has been shown between fructose and cancer proliferation, said Dr. Anthony Heaney, senior author of the study.  And proliferation? My dictionary defines proliferation as a “rapid increase in numbers.” The words “cancer cells” and “proliferation” just don’t go well together. Although the food and beverage industry argues that sugar is sugar, actually “fructose and glucose metabolism are quite different,” Heaney’s team discovered.

Tumor cells fed both glucose and fructose used the two sugars in two different ways. The researchers said their finding may help explain why other studies have linked fructose intake with pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest cancer types.

“The bottom line is the modern diet contains a lot of refined sugar including fructose and it’s a hidden danger implicated in a lot of modern diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and fatty liver,” said Heaney. “These findings show that cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation. They have major significance for cancer patients, given dietary refined fructose consumption.”

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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3:33PM PDT on Jul 10, 2012


9:20AM PDT on Jun 27, 2011

I agree with many of the other comments that this article needs clarification. Obviously, one shouldn't eat too much sugar of any kind - balance and moderation is important. Certainly avoiding refined or processed sugars, such as HFC, not to mention all artificial sweeteners, is a good idea.
There are plenty of "whole", unprocessed sugars available such as honey, and Rapadura sugar (Rapunzel brand) which are perfectly okay if used in small amounts. Whole fruits are also very healthy foods and contain naturally occurring fructose. I never heard of anyone getting cancer from eating the proverbial apple a day!

4:29PM PDT on May 19, 2011

Thank you!

1:08PM PST on Feb 28, 2011

meant to say sugar, used reasonably is NOT horrible for humans..just keep in fruit form or use date sugar.

1:07PM PST on Feb 28, 2011

Sugar is horrible for humans as we have a taste bud for sweet! Just eat your sugar in better forms: from actual fruit is best. Next would be date sugar. Saturated fats from animal foods and the excess casein in Dairy are your number sick makers...Go to this site: CHOOSEVEG.COM

11:35PM PST on Feb 27, 2011

Great point. I don't eat refined sugar anymore. I can't stand processed foods because of how I feel after.

9:04AM PST on Feb 25, 2011


8:23PM PST on Feb 22, 2011

By the way, fructose does not, and has never existed naturally. It does not exist in nature. So fructose is not safe, period!

6:34PM PDT on Oct 13, 2010

Thanks for the Info!

9:24AM PDT on Oct 11, 2010

Thank you! I am so glad I gave up soda years ago! no high fructose corn syrup for me!

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