Cancer cells derive their energy from sugar. A diet high is sweets has been found to increase breast density – which in turn increases breast cancer risk.[i] Sugar increases insulin and IGF-1 levels, which stimulate cancer growth when their receptors are present. There is also a correlation between high intake of sweets and localized breast cancer in young women.[ii] A low sugar diet and avoidance of refined carbohydrates with a high glycemic index is protective, whereas a diet with a high glycemic load increases breast cancer risk.[iii] Choose carbohydrates that have a low glycemic index, such as most legumes, pearl barley, quinoa and green vegetables.
Sweets will promote an overgrowth of unwanted organisms in the intestinal tract, such as Candida and parasites. Cancer patients are prone to candidiasis when their immune systems have been suppressed during and after chemotherapy and radiation,[iv] or after antibiotic use. Care should be taken to identify Candida overgrowth and follow a diet that discourages fungal growth.
Food tip: Avoid or minimize sweets, and use fresh fruits to satisfy a sweet craving (do not use fruit if you have a Candida overgrowth). Stevia and xylitol are acceptable sweeteners, as they have a low glycemic index.
[i] Duchaine CS, Dumas I, Diorio C. Consumption of sweet foods and mammographic breast density: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health. 2014 Jun 26;14:554.
[ii] Polischman N, Coates RJ, Swanson CA 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. 2002 Dec;13(10):937-46.
[iii] Sieri S, Pala V, Brighenti F et al. High glycemic diet and breast cancer occurrence in the Italian EPIC cohort. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2013 Jul;23(7):628-34.
[iv] Tang HJ, Liu WL, Lin HL. Epidemiology and prognostic factors of candidemia in cancer patients. PLoS One. 2014 Jun 5;9(6):e99103