Research Links Sugar and Cancer, but Proves Nothing

Keep eating fruit and honey, but stay on the lookout for future information

The connection between sugar and cancer is getting clearer.

Belgian scientists investigating tumor growth discovered that blood glucose may have an impact on rapid progression of cancerous cells. The findings, however, do not prove that sugar intake — whether eating sugar or cutting it from your diet — has any effect on the onset or development of cancer. So don’t quit your fruit smoothie yet.

The researchers, whose findings were published in the journal Nature Communications, found that yeast with high levels of glucose could overstimulate proteins that are often found in cancerous tumors. The stimulation could cause cells to grow and multiply faster. In other words, a high blood sugar could worsen existing tumors.

Their investigation was an attempt to understand the Warburg effect, which occurs when tumor cells quickly gain energy through a rapid breakdown of glucose in the blood. They then use that energy to grow — further spreading the cancer.

“This link between sugar and cancer has sweeping consequences,” said Johan Thevelein, co-author of the study. “Our results provide a foundation for future research in this domain.”

Further research is absolutely necessary — though there appears to be a link between blood sugar and cancer growth, the findings indicate nothing decisive about what happens when you eat sugar or whether the cancer growth would occur regardless.

“They are providing a potential way [the Warburg effect] could be a cause of cancer, but they are a long way away from saying this could actually happen,” cancer researcher Victoria Stevens told USA Today.


A low-sugar diet might not deter the onset of cancer at all; further investigation will hopefully clear those muddied waters. Before we eliminate sugar entirely, we need a bit more proof to show it’s actually on the list of foods that put you at risk.