Abstract: Since talking or writing about food may take an eternity, let us confine this discussion as to why refined sugars are not good for cancer patients. We hope with this understanding you may appreciate why we, at CA Care, ask you to avoid them. Also we hope with this information you may be able to carry out an informed discussion with your doctors.
Chris K. H. Teo & Ch’ng Beng Im-Teo
CA Care, 5 Lebuhraya Gelugor, 11600 Penang, Malaysia.
Refined Sugar is Toxic ~ Leighteon Steward et al.
Since talking or writing about food may take an eternity, let us confine this discussion as to why refined sugars are not good for cancer patients. We hope with this understanding you may appreciate why we, at CA Care, ask you to avoid them. Also we hope with this information you may be able to carry out an informed discussion with your doctors. We have already written a book,Food & Cancer, and we don’t intend to repeat what we have written. Please read this book for more practical details.
White Sugar: To the lay person, sugar is the white, sweet stuff that we use to add to our coffee or tea. Let it be known, refined sugar is toxic! Our ancestors did not eat sugar. The world before A.D. 500 did not know what refined sugar was. From zero refined sugar intake we have hit an average consumption of 152 pounds of sugar /person in 1997. Even up to the 17th Century sugar was actually an expensive luxury item.
USDA surveys show that on average, an American consumes about 20 teaspoons of sugar per day. A can of soft drink alone contains about 9 teaspoons of sugar. The WHO urges people to limit their daily consumption of free (added) sugars to approximately 12 teaspoons (48 grams) per day. Leading American health experts want the FDA to set a maximum recommended daily intake for added (free) sugars to 10 teaspoons (40 grams) per day. It is better is you keep it to 2 teaspoons a day!
Thus the problems facing us today is we eat too much sugar that our bodies find it difficult to handle or cope. Is there any wonder that the rates of diabetes, obesity, heart diseases, etc., had skyrocketed and are increasing with each year?
Various Forms of Sugars: Chemically the refined white sugar is sucrose, a disaccharide made up of glucose and fructose. Each 100 grams of sucrose produces 53 grams of glucose and 53 grams of fructose. So sucrose is not the only source of sugar. In fact there are many forms of other sugars that we must avoid, which lay persons do not seem to recognize. There are things like fructose, galactose, dextrin, lactose, mannitol, maltose, high fructose corn syrup, refined carbohydrates, white flour, etc. Added sugars are found largely in junk foods such as soft drinks, cakes, cookies, etc. The carbohydrates eaten in our meals also break down to form glucose.
Glucose – Fuel of Life
The primary fuel used in the body is glucose. Our body needs sugar, in the form of glucose in the blood, to function. Without sugar we will die. For example, to function well the brain needs about 25 grams of glucose circulating in the blood stream. The brain uses about 120 grams of glucose daily – this represents about 60 to 70% of the total body glucose metabolism.
Our brains do not tolerate too much or too little glucose in the blood stream. High levels of glucose damage cells everywhere in the body. In daily life, the blood glucose level of 126 mg/dL or higher is diabetic and levels less than 110 mg/dL is considered normal. In actual fact at 110 mg/dL the glucose is considered far from optimum. Ideally we should consider maintaining a fasting sugar level of no higher than 90 mg/dL.
Glucose Feeds Cancer
The German biologist Otto Warburg discovered that the metabolism of malignant tumours is largely dependent on glucose consumption. The use of PET scan to detect cancer is one good example of what sugar does. In PET scan patients are injected with radioacative glucose (i.e. sugar) and the areas inside the body that are cancerous consume the most glucose. These areas will show up as hot spots in the scan (see below). In short, cancer feeds on sugar. The more sugar you eat the more your feed your cancer. So remember again, sugar feeds cancer!
Insulin: the Key to Health and Illness
Many of us know insulin is associated with diabetes. And people with this illness are asked to minimize their sugar intake. But very few know that sugar creates more havoc in the body than we ever know. As pointed out earlier, the problem of today is we eat far too much sugar (in the form of junk food) than what our body needs. This is how the problems start:
- When we eat a meal, sugar, white flour or refined carbohydrates (food with high glycemic index) the nutrients in that meal are eventually converted to glucose and absorbed into the blood stream. The fats in the meal become fatty acids and are stored in the body as fat.
- The brain senses the arrival of glucose in the blood and the pancreas immediately releases a dose of insulin to enable the glucose to enter the cells. The release of insulin is also accompanied by the release of IGF (insulin-like growth factor-1) whose role is to stimulate cell growth.
- Any glucose not needed is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. However the total storage capacity is limited. Once the glycogen levels are filled in both the liver and the muscles, excess sugars are converted into fat and stored as adipose tissue mainly around our waistlines. So excess sugars or carbohydrates make us fat. Storing excess energy in the form of fat is to ensure availability of fuel for a rainy day.
- The more sugar we eat the more our pancreas will have to pump out insulin to take care of the above processes. A situation will arise when the cells in the body are so used to the exposure of high insulin levels that they develop resistance or become insensitive to the presence of normal levels of insulin. In an insulin resistant person the pancreas needs to produce more and more insulin to maintain metabolic control.
- Many of us suffer varying degrees of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance causes various biochemical changes in the body causing various problems.
What We Need to Know about Insulin
- Insulin is not only important to the diabetic. It is equally important to those who are healthy. Insulin can be both the cause and the answer to today’s majority of illnesses.
- Insulin ensures a steady flow of energy to the cells in our bodies. It helps create a healthy body weight, support the health of our hearts and circulatory system.
- Insulin maintains our emotional health and the clarity of our mind and memory.
- If insulin levels are chronically high in our body, it can cause great havoc throughout the body – leading to illnesses like overweight, obesity, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, mood imbalances and mental illness.
- Insulin causes our bodies to store excess sugars as fat but at the same time insulin also inhibits the mobilization of previously stored fat.
- Insulin also signals our livers to make cholesterol.
- Insulin and IGF directly stimulate:
a) Growth of cancer cells.
b) Stimulate the capacity of cancer cells to invade neighbouring tissues or metastasis.
c) Cancer cells are made less susceptible to chemotherapy when the (mouse’s) insulin system has been stimulated by the presence of sugar.
- Research have shown that as insulin and IGF-1 go up, so too do the rates of breast, prostate and colon cancers. Also the higher the levels of insulin and IGF-1 the higher is inflammation. Cancer needs insulin to thrive.
Insulin and Obesity
Insulin determines to a great extent how much fatty tissues we have in our body. The more insulin in our blood the fatter we become. The fatter we are the bigger are the fat cells. Fatty tissues can produce a variety of hormones which are detrimental to our health. These are:
- Tumour necrosis factor (TNF – explained in Letter 67) which promotes inflammation – the main cause of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, asthma, etc.
- Interleukin-6 (IL-6) which acts as both a pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory agent. It stimulates immune response to trauma, especially burns or other tissue damage leading to inflammation.
- Estrogen, a sex hormone is an important factor in both the cause and maintenance of breast and prostate cancers. At high levels estrogen can cause rapid growth of hormone-sensitive organs like the breast, uterus, varies and prostate. High levels of estrogen is also inflammatory.
If insulin resistance is allowed to go far enough, it may result in a condition called metabolic syndrome. It is said that one in four Americans today have metabolic syndrome which is manifested by:
- Overweight – especially around the waistline.
- High insulin.
- High blood glucose.
- High LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides.
- High blood pressure.
This disorder is a great threat to our health leading to high levels of inflammation. Inflammation leads to production of free radicals in the blood and tissues. As discussed earlier, inflammation is the underlying cause of cancer.
Dr. Barry Boyd, founder of the Integrative Oncology program at Greenwich Hospital (in The Cancer Recovery Plan) wrote:
- Many cancer patients develop the metabolic syndrome.
- Chemotherapy treatment can bring on the metabolic syndrome. And this is critical to know for treatment as well as follow up care to avoid recurrence of cancer or a new illness.
- Despite hundreds of scientific studies linking insulin to cancer’s cause and progression, remarkably few doctors have yet to appreciate this connection. This is like not seeing the forest for the trees. Doctors have known this for years but never paid attention to it as a target for treatment.
What Can We Do About This
- Avoid refined sugar, refined carbohydrate, white flour, pasteries, cookies, cakes, etc.
- You can get your sugars from fruits – whole or juice. If you are overweight, insulin resistant, or have elevated blood triglycerides, you should limit your intake of high-sugar fruits, such as grapes, mangos, sweet cherries, apples, pineapples, pears and kiwi fruit. This recommendation also applies to dried fruits which contain excessive sugar. Try to include more vegetables instead. However, some fruits like tomatoes, avocadoes, lemons, and limes, are very low in total sugar and do not have to be restricted.
- Replace white rice with brown rice.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, professor of surgery at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Centre, wrote:
- The good news is that all of us can control our insulin levels by virtue of the nutrients we consume and the amounts of physical activity in which we engage each day … in the process give yourself the gift of good health.
Russell Blaylock, M.D., (in Health and nutrition secrets that can you your life) wrote: Sugar can be a very toxic substance. High sugar intake is also known to suppress the immune system, increasing the likelihood of bacterial and yeast infections, chronic viral illnesses and even cancer. We know that cancer’s major fuel is glucose. So anyone who has cancer should avoid sugar.
Marion Nestle, chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University, USA wrote (in What to eat): If it makes good sense to cut down on sugars and their principal sources – soft drinks, juice drinks, cookies, cakes, candy and ice cream – shouldn’t the government say so? Until recently it did say so, but the price of good advice and common sense proved too high in the face of industry pressures.
Some Research Reports On Sugar and Cancer
Seely & Horrobin. Diet and breast cancer: the possible connection with sugar consumption. Med Hypotheses 11:319-327. 1983.
In older women a strong correlation was found between breast cancer mortality and sugar consumption. A possible connection link between sugar consumption and breast cancer is insulin. This is an absolute requirement for the proliferation of normal mammary tissue and experimental mammary tumours may regress in its absence.
Potischman et al. Increased risk of early-stage breast cancer related to consumption of sweet foods among women less than age 45 in the United States. Cancer Causes Control. 13: 937-946. 2002.
Data suggest a modest relationship between intakes of sweet items with risk of in-situ and localized breast cancer in young women. This relation is consistent with the hypothesized link of high insulin exposure and risk of breast cancer.
Stefani et al. Dietary sugar and lung cancer. Nutrition & Cancer 31: 132-137. 1988.
The study suggests that high sucrose intake could be an important risk factor in lung carcinogenesis.
Bristol et al. Sugar, fat and the risk of colorectal cancer. British Medical J., 291: Nov. 1985.
High energy diet rich in sugar and fat are associated with the development of colorectal cancer.
Slatatert et al. Dietary sugar and colon cancer. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention: 6:677-685. 1997.
Dietary sugars, especially diets high in simple carbohydrates relative to complex carbohydrates increase risk of colon cancer, possibly through their impact on plasma glucose levels.
Giovannucci. Metabolic syndrome hyperinsulinemia and colon cancer: a review. Am J Clin Nutr. 86: 8365S. 2007.
An impressive body of epidemiologic data collected over the past decade indicate that the risk of colon cancer is elevated in those with metabolic syndrome.
Giovannjucci. Insulin, insulin-like growth factors and colon cancer: a review of the evidence. Amer Soc Nutritional Sc.: 3109S3116S. 2001.
- Insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF) axes are major determinants of proliferation and apoptosis and thus may influence carcinogenesis.
- Human evidence also associates high levels of insulin and IGF-1 with increased risk of colon cancer.
- Many studies indicate that dietary patterns that stimulate insulin resistance, including high consumption of sucrose, various sources of starch, a high glycemic index and high saturated fatty acid intake, are associated with a higher risk of colon cancer.
Tuyns et al. Diet and gastric cancer: A case-control in Belgium. Inter. J of Cancer 51:1-6. 2006.
There was an increased risk associated with meat and flour products, including white bread. Added sugar also increased risk of gastric cancer. Consumption of most vegetables and of fresh fruits was found to be protective.
Larsson et al. Consumption of sugar and sugar-sweetened foods and the risk of pancreatic cancer in a prospective study. Am J Clin Nutr 84: 1171-1176. 2006.
High consumption of sugar and high-sugar foods may be associated with a greater risk of pancreatic cancer.
Cowey & Hardy. The metabolic syndrome – a high risk state for cancer? Amer J Pathology 169: 1505-1522. 2006.
Most of the components of the metabolic syndrome have individually been linked in some way to the development of cancer.
Schoen et al. Increased blood glucose and insulin, body size and incident colorectal cacner. J Nat Cancer Inst 91: 1147-1152. 1999.
These data provide the first direct evidence of an association between elevated visceral adipose tissue level – higher levels of waist circumference, its associated metabolic effects and colorectal cancer.
Zhang et al. Hypothalamic IKKbeta/NF-kappaB and ER stress link overnutrition to energy imbalance and obesity.Cell 135:61-723. 3 October 2008.
Overnutrition is associated with chronic inflammation in metabolic tissues. The brain may react to excess food as if it were a pathogen.
One Hundred and Forty Six Reasons Why Sugar Is Ruining Your Health
Dr. Nancy Appleton, Ph.D. was a sugarholic. Years of sneaking sugary snacks led to sickness and allergy as her constant companions. Despite everything the doctors tried she didn’t get better, until she asked the question, What am I doing to make myself sick? In her website:
Dr. Appleton gave 146 reasons why sugar is ruining your health. Following are some of them.
1. Sugar can suppress the immune system.
2. Sugar upsets the mineral relationships in the body.
3. Sugar can cause hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children.
4. Sugar can produce a significant rise in triglycerides.
5. Sugar contributes to the reduction in defense against bacterial infection (infectious diseases).
6. Sugar causes a loss of tissue elasticity and function.
7. Sugar reduces high-density lipoproteins.
8. Sugar leads to chromium deficiency.
9. Sugar leads to cancer of the ovaries.
10. Sugar causes copper deficiency.
11. Sugar interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium.
12. Sugar can produce an acidic digestive tract.
13. Sugar can cause premature aging.
14. 21. Sugar can cause tooth decay.
15. Sugar contributes to obesity
16. High intake of sugar increases the risk of Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
17. Sugar can cause changes frequently found in person with gastric or duodenal ulcers.
18. Sugar can cause arthritis.
19. Sugar can cause asthma.
20. Sugar greatly assists the uncontrolled growth of Candida albicans (yeast infections).
21. Sugar can cause gallstones.
22. Sugar can cause heart disease.
23. Sugar can cause appendicitis.
24. Sugar can cause hemorrhoids.
25. Sugar can cause varicose veins.
26. Sugar can lead to periodontal disease.
27. Sugar can contribute to osteoporosis.
28. Sugar contributes to saliva acidity.
29. Sugar can increase cholesterol.
30. Sugar can increase the systolic blood pressure.
31. Sugar can interfere with the absorption of protein.
32. Sugar causes food allergies.
33. Sugar can contribute to diabetes.
34. Sugar can cause toxemia during pregnancy.
35. Sugar can contribute to eczema in children.
36. Sugar can cause cardiovascular disease.
37. Sugar can make our skin age by changing the structure of collagen.
38. Sugar can cause cataracts.
39. Sugar can cause atherosclerosis.
40. Sugar can promote an elevation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL).
41. Sugar lowers the enzymes ability to function.
42. Sugar can increase the size of the liver by making the liver cells divide.
43. Sugar can increase the amount of liver fat.
44. Sugar can increase kidney size and produce pathological changes in the kidney.
45. Sugar can damage the pancreas.
46. Sugar can increase the body’s fluid retention.
47. Sugar is enemy number one of the bowel movement.
48. Sugar can cause myopia (nearsightedness).
49. Sugar can compromise the lining of the capillaries.
50. Sugar can make the tendons more brittle.
51. Sugar can cause headaches, including migraine.
52. Sugar plays a role in pancreatic cancer in women.
53. Sugar can adversely affect school children’s grades and cause learning disorders.
54. Sugar can cause depression.
55. Sugar increases the risk of gastric cancer.
56. Sugar and cause dyspepsia (indigestion).
57. Sugar can increase your risk of getting gout.
58. A diet high in refined sugar reduces learning capacity.
59. Sugar can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.
60. Sugar can cause platelet adhesiveness.
61. Sugar can cause hormonal imbalance; some hormones under active and others overactive.
62. Sugar can lead to the formation of kidney stones.
63. Diets high in sugar can cause free radicals and oxidative stress.
64. High sugar diet can lead to biliary tract cancer.
65. Sugar can be a risk factor of gallbladder cancer.
66. Sugar is an addictive substance.
67. Sugar can exacerbate PMS.
68. Decrease in sugar intake can increase emotional stability.
69. The rapid absorption of sugar promotes excessive food intake in obese subjects.
70. Sugar can worsen the symptoms of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
71. Sugar can slow down the ability of the adrenal glands to function.
72. I.Vs (intravenous feedings) of sugar water can cut off oxygen to the brain.
73. High sucrose intake could be an important risk factor in lung cancer.
74. High sugar intake can cause epileptic seizures.
75. Sugar causes high blood pressure in obese people.
76. In Intensive Care Units, limiting sugar saves lives.
77. Sugar can increase the amount of food that you eat.
78. Sugar can lead to prostrate cancer.
79. Sugar can cause low birth weight babies.
80. Sweet food items increase the risk of breast cancer.
81. Sugar induces salt and water retention.
82. Sugar may contribute to mild memory loss.
83. High fructose consumption has been linked to liver disease.
84. Sugar adds to the risk of bladder cancer.
Sugar’s Deadly Effects
Dr. Bruce Eichelberger, OMD has this article, Sugar’s Surprisingly Large Number of Deadly Effects. See his website: (
1. Sugar speeds up the aging process.
2. Sugar boosts blood pressure, meaning it contributes to a greater likelihood of stroke or heart attack.
3. Consuming excessive amounts of refined sugar aggravates Crohn’s Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Eating too much sugar increases the risk of gallstones. Sugar directly irritates the stomach and impairs protein digestion. In turn, this prevents the body from healing as quickly because proteins are the building blocks of cellular repair.
4. Eating sugar increases the likelihood of kidney stones.
5. Sugar reduces the body’s production of antibodies. Excessive consumption of sugar interferes with the function of neutrophils. Neutrophils reduce inflammation. Excessive consumption of sugar interferes with the function of phagocytes (literally “big eaters”) that circulate through the body gobbling up toxic and dangerous materials.
6. Sugar reduces the body’s ability to fight off cancer. Sugar increases the risk of breast cancer by defeating the ability of the body to fight abnormally multiplying cells. Sugar increases the risk of colon cancer – just one teaspoon of additional sugar per day increases colon cancer risk by 40% and an additional three teaspoons or more increases the risk of colon cancer by 100%.
7. Sugar can initiate cross-linking of proteins and sugars, forming a sticky, caramel-like substance in the tissues (AGEs) that block healthy metabolism and lead to pain and other health problems.
8. Sugar ramps up production of free radicals within the body, which have multiple negative effects on health, including increasing inflammation, aggravating heart disease and multiplying the likelihood of strokes.
9. Excessive consumption of sugar can cause insulin resistance, a hallmark of metabolic syndrome and a precursor to diabetes.
10. Excessive consumption of sugar exacerbates obesity by increasing the formation of body fat. In a diet too low in fat, it substitutes for dietary fats in energy production. Ironically, this leads to the accumulation of fat around the internal organs, which interferes with their natural functioning.
11. Sugar increases circulating triglycerides in the blood. Recent research implicates elevated triglycerides as aggravating a wide variety of chronic and ultimately deadly diseases such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and pancreatitis.
12. Sugar causes tooth decay.
13. Excessive sugar intake accelerates the development of wrinkles because of the cross-linking of sugar and protein. The result has the apt acronym, AGE.
14. Sugar increases the production of cholesterol in the body. Since 80% of the cholesterol we have is made inside the body, this is a major contributing factor.
15. Sugar increases the production of cortisol, aka the ‘stress hormone.’ Chronically elevated cortisol has a long list of negative effects including weight gain, elevated blood pressure, sleeplessness, impaired learning and memory, and lowered immunity.
Wow, that’s quite a list! Given what you now know about the effects of sugar in your body, I hope you’ll be more careful.
More Facts You Need To Know
- High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is about as healthy as heroin. Here’s why…
v You should know that in spite of the name fructose sounding like the word fruit, HFCS is anything but natural. Most corn used to make it is genetically modified, as are the enzymes and fungus necessary to transform corn starch into this form of sugar.
v You may end up with the following problems after eating too much fructose:
- high cholesterol
- heart hypertrophy (enlarged heart)
- delayed testicular development
- infertility in women
- increased appetite
- improper connective tissue production
- increased insulin resistance
- increased likelihood of metabolic syndrome
- increased likelihood of type 2 diabetes
- reduced antioxidant activity in the body
- iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc deficiencies
- cirrhosis of the liver
In other words, HFCS wreaks havoc on your immune system, bones, heart, liver, energy level and reproductive system. In addition, it increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer, including prostate and colon cancer. Sounds sweet, doesn’t it?
- Hard facts about soft drinks.
Here is what happens when you drink a soft drink:
# In The First 10 minutes: 10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system (100% of your recommended daily intake). You don’t immediately vomit from the overwhelming sweetness because phosphoric acid cuts the flavor allowing you to keep it down.
# 20 minutes: Your blood sugar spikes, causing an insulin burst. Your liver responds to this by turning any sugar it can get its hands on into fat.
# 40 minutes: Caffeine absorption is complete. Your pupils dilate, your blood pressure rises, as a response your livers dumps more sugar into your bloodstream. The adenosine receptors in your brain are now blocked preventing drowsiness.
# 45 minutes: Your body ups your dopamine production stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain. This is physically the same way heroin works, by the way.
# 60 minutes: The phosphoric acid binds calcium, magnesium and zinc in your lower intestine, providing a further boost in metabolism. This is compounded by high doses of sugar and artificial sweeteners also increasing the urinary excretion of calcium.
# After 60 Minutes: The caffeine’s diuretic properties come into play. (It makes you have to pee.) It is now assured that you’ll evacuate the bonded calcium, magnesium and zinc that were headed to your bones as well as sodium, electrolyte and water.
# >60 minutes: As the rave inside of you dies down you’ll start to have a sugar crash. You may become irritable and/or sluggish. You’ve also now, literally, pissed away all the water that was in the soft drink. But not before infusing it with valuable nutrients your body could have used for things like even having the ability to hydrate your system or build strong bones and teeth.
Soda Pop or Solvent?
If high levels of sugar, artificial sweeteners, preservatives and artificial coloring in soda pop don’t convince you to find an alternative beverage, perhaps this will:
v Recently in Britain, as much as 36 times the accepted level of highly toxic benzene have been found in soda pop. Benzene is a flammable petroleum product that is a key component in many solvents and cleaners as well as in gasoline. It’s also a known carcinogen with strong links to leukemia in humans.
Sugar Can Damage Your DNA
Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute is Australia’s first health and medical research institute tackling the deadly trio of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (
). Among the research they have done were:
- Human cells can ‘remember’ and reproduce the effect of a poor diet on the body. Very specific molecular events occur after the consumption of food high in glucose, causing chemical changes to genetic controls. El-Osta, an associate professor at the institute, said: We now know that chocolate bar you had this morning can have very acute effects, and those effects continue for up to two weeks later, this is what we refer to as the burden of memory. The changes initiated by diet create a kind of ‘ghost’ that lives within our genes, and that these epigenetic changes remember the effects of glucose and continue to respond to them for days or even weeks. El-Osta and his team found that cells that showed profound changes in a high-glucose environment continued to exhibit those changes even when taken out of that environment. In fact, the cells demonstrated a ‘memory’ of that high glucose event even when the same cells were returned to their previous state. Eating a single chocolate bar can cause problems for future generations
- For the first time, scientists have proved that by following wrong eating practices, fat people reprogram controls over their DNA and pass on fatness and disease not only to their children, but also to future generations. The damage done by unhealthy eating is “remembered” in genetic controls – epigenetics – and turns off good genes needed to prevent diabetes, heart disease and other complications – good genes are switched off and bad genes switched on. Imagine how this affects us when we don’t ever give our bodies a break from the sugary onslaught. The genetic damage could go on for months, or even years.
The Maillard Reaction
Here is a summary of some articles I read in the internet. One written by Will Block: How and why to prevent AGE damage, is recommended for your reading.
In 1912, Louis Camille Maillard, a French physician and chemist, investigated what happened when sugars (such as glucose and fructose) were combined with amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.
Maillard heated aqueous (water) solutions of sugars and amino acids for a few hours. They turned into a yellow-brown color, the result of a series of reactions that yielded a brew of products collectively called AGEs, advanced glycation end-products.
AGEs are implicated in the development or exacerbation of numerous degenerative diseases associated with aging, notably type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and other dementias, cataracts, retinal dysfunction, kidney failure, nerve damage, arthritis, and cancer.
Most AGEs Are Yummy
If you’re the kind of person who likes food, you would probably love dietary AGEs because they happen to be among the tastiest compounds known. They are responsible for many colors and flavors in foods. They form the brown crusts of bakery products, biscuits, roasted coffee, malted barley as in malt whiskey or beer, and in meats or vegetables that have been baked, roasted, broiled, grilled, fried, sautéed, etc. Many AGEs are found in commercial food flavorings designed to make all kinds of foods taste even better, as though they’d been browned. In fact, the Maillard reactions form the basis of the flavoring industry and are portrayed in a good light because of the gustatory wonders they produce. Chefs love them.
AGEs In the Body
The Maillard reaction also occurs in the human body. It is a step in the formation of AGES, advanced glycation end-products.
In 1971, scientists investigating the blood of diabetic patients discovered that some of the hemoglobin was glycated. Glycation is the first step in the Maillard reactions. In this reaction a sugar molecule is attached to an amino acid. As the ensuing reactions advance through numerous complex stages, they can lead to formation of a great variety of end-products, collectively known as AGEs, most of which are harmful to us. AGEs are the caramel-like sticky substances that get jammed within and between our cells and contribute to feeling old and tiredness.
The sugar of greatest importance to us is glucose. Fortunately, glucose is among the least reactive of the nutrient sugars in the Maillard reactions. The glycation reactivity of fructose (fruit sugar) is about ten times higher than that of glucose. Unlike most biologically important reactions, which are catalyzed by enzymes, glycation is not catalyzed. The lack of enzymatic control over the glycation process means that this reaction can occur haphazardly—anytime, anywhere, to an extent limited only by the availability of the reactants. Thus there’s nothing to restrain glucose from reacting with amino acids and proteins, which are everywhere in the body. Since we can’t live without glucose, we can’t avoid AGEs—but we can slow down their formation.
The Maillard Reaction happens within our bodies when certain conditions exist. The most common trigger for this is high blood sugar.
v High blood sugar exists in the following conditions: diabetes (both types), when eating more carbohydrates than our metabolism can handle.
v In the initial phase of hypoglycemia when our blood sugar spikes before dropping too low to deal with this elevated sugar in our blood, our body uses the Maillard Reaction to “cook” the sugar down into AGE.
Dietary Sources of AGE
The other source of AGE is our diet. Some foods are naturally high in AGE. Others create AGE when they are prepared in certain ways. Foods that are high in AGE are:
pasteurized milk, chocolate, margarine, sugar and other concentrated sweeteners, white flour (bread, bagels, cookies, cakes, etc.), regular salt (unrefined sea salt is okay). In addition, foods cooked over 112° F typically contain AGE. The higher the cooking temperature is the more AGEs are being created.
AGEs Come in Large and Small Sizes
There are hundreds of known AGEs produced by the Maillard reactions in our bodies. Some of these are very large molecules produced by the chemical linkage between sugars and proteins that were never intended to be linked. As a result of such cross-linking loss of tissue elasticity can occur in the heart, blood vessels, skin, eyes, kidneys, joints, etc. We see such problems in elderly people.
Many other AGEs are relatively small degradation products of the Maillard reactions, and some of these contain a reactive chemical group called the carbonyl group. The spectrum of damage caused by carbonyl compounds is called carbonyl stress. It’s analogous to the oxidative stress caused by reactive oxygen species, including free radicals.
AGEs can also be formed by the reactions of sugars (or other reactive carbonyl compounds) with lipids (fats) and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA). These AGEs too are deleterious to our health.
How To Avoid AGE
Here are some tips to help us avoid AGE:
- Reduce or eliminate refined, simple sugars in your diet. This will reduce the high blood sugar spikes that can trigger AGE formation.
- Reduce or eliminate refined grains (especially white flour), and the products made from them.
- Chew our food thoroughly. This reduces the effects of AGE in our foods.
- Avoid charred, fried, pasteurized, dried and processed foods. Many prepared foods have been exposed to high temperatures to lengthen shelf life, so they may have high AGE contents.
- Eat more raw and lightly cooked foods. By eating raw vegetables and lightly cooked meats, the enzyme levels are higher and you don’t draw on your body’s own enzymes as much. Do this by preparing your foods the following ways: light steaming, baking, stewing, stir-frying and slow crock cooking.
- Eat enough fresh vegetables and fruits.
Unfortunately, our body’s mechanisms for removing waste products cannot keep up with the production of AGEs. And also AGEs are resistant to this elimination process.
Dr. Appleton gave 146 reasons why sugar is bad for health. Dr. Bruce Eichelberger gave 15 reasons why sugars are deadly. How many more reasons do you need to convince you that sugar is bad?
The practice of medicine is supposed to be based on research evidence. So they say. I have presented you with 12 research papers pointing to the fact that sugars are bad and are linked to cancers of breast, colon, liver, etc. How many more research papers do you need to make you wake up and see the truth?
I obtained my Ph.D. in 1973, and I taught in Universiti Sains Malaysia for 26 years until I retired in 2000. And I helped cancer patients since the last 13 years. Let me honestly tell you – I have never heard about The Maillard Reaction and AGEs. It is only now, when writing this article that I stumbled into them while reading Dr. Nancy Appleton’s book, Stopping inflammation – relieving the cause of degenerative diseases. For years, studying science, I knew nothing about such an important aspect about sugar. Try and ask those experts who are taking care of your health if they ever heard about Maillard Reaction and AGEs, I believe they would NOT be that naïve to say that you can eat anything to like if they have leant these in school.
I often read that cancer patients are invited to celebration parties – celebrating life, they say. Often these patients are served cakes, cookies, ice creams, coffee or tea, (satey and grilled lamb as well?) etc, etc. Enjoy yourself – for that happiness may not last too long if you understand enough science. So, be more informed.