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.”

The main source of fructose in the Western diet is HFCS. The corn-based sweetener has been on the market since about 1970 and now accounts for more than 40 percent of the caloric sweeteners added to foods and beverages.

HFCS is made by changing the sugar (glucose) in cornstarch to fructose. The end product is a combination of fructose and glucose. Because it extends the shelf life of processed foods and is cheaper than sugar, HFCS has become ubiquitous in many sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and other processed foods. Essentially, it seems to be in just about any food item that comes in a package.

“I think this paper has a lot of public health implications,” Heaney said. “Hopefully, at the federal level there will be some effort to step back on the amount of HFCS in our diets.”

Now the team hopes to develop a drug to stop tumor cells from making use of fructose. So…we need a drug to stop tumor cells from using fructose? Am I missing something? Wouldn’t it just be easier to stop the excessive use of refined fructose?

For more, see HFCS: That Sweet, Sweet Bully

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Aditya Narayan
Aditya n.3 years ago


Charlene S.
Charla D.4 years ago

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!

Sharon Schaffhauser

Thank you!

LINDA M.4 years ago

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

LINDA M.4 years ago

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

Rhiannon D.
Rhiannon Davis4 years ago

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

Kelsey C.
Kelsey C.4 years ago


Austin Jones
Austin J.4 years ago

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

Nuke P.
Nuke P.5 years ago

Thanks for the Info!

Paul Harrison
Paul Harr5 years ago

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