Colon Cancer Grows Faster with Sugary Drinks

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It’s more bad news for sugary drinks that contain high fructose corn syrup or HFCS.

According to a new animal study, consuming a small amount of this sweetener can speed up the growth of tumors. The study focused on intestinal (colon) tumors and the amount of high fructose corn syrup was equivalent to the amount found in one can of soda. I’m concerned because I know somewhere out there, children are celebrating their birthdays with lots of candy and beverages that are high in HFCS.

The amount of corn syrup found in a can of soda appears to give mice bigger colon tumors. You might be thinking that other factors came into play such as weight, or illness, but the results of this mouse study were actually independent of compounding factors. This finding comes at the same time as another concerning trend is coming to light. That is more and more young adults are being diagnosed with colon or colorectal cancer in their 30’s and dying from it.

Colon cancer is the second or perhaps third leading type of cancer among men and women! It’s right up there with skin, lung and reproductive cancer (breast/prostate). The new STUDY points to accelerated growth of colon tumors, and that gets my attention since my brother passed away from colon cancer and I remain tuned in to the research about it.

High fructose corn syrup is a liquid sweetener, derived from corn, that consists of both glucose and fructose in a ratio of 45 to 55. So it’s a blended sugar that contains two different natural sugars, and it is mainly fructose which is a fruit sugar. It is not an artificial sugar. It is not at all like sucralose or aspartame, it’s totally different in its chemical structure. Nevertheless, the high amount of fructose is thought to drive inflammation and some research suggests a correlation to diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

The fact that sweet drinks accelerate tumor growth within the colon begs the question about other tumors. Does it drive tumor growth for other cancers, or just colon? And it raises the question about soda, candy, yogurt and frozen foods which use HFCS as the sweetener of choice. Can we (and should we) extrapolate the data from an animal study to humans?

There are so many considerations and I want you to think about this for yourself. Consider that some colon tumors take 10 to 20 years to grow large enough to show up on scans. Polyps are more frequently seen. The study I’m am referring to evaluated two groups of mice with tumors. The control group were the ones who were given water. The test mice were given the drinks containing HFCS. Both groups of mice had a similar amount of tumors. The alarming part was that after just 2 months, the test group had grown much larger tumors, and they were not only more aggressive but highly invasive into other tissues, as compared to the water-drinking rodents.

The scientists tracked the glucose and fructose to see how each type of sugar acted in the body. They could track it with a technique called “isotope labeling.” What they found was the fructose portion skipped over its normal route of absorption bypassing the intestines where it would normally get absorbed into the bloodstream (through the intestines). Instead, the fructose basically flew through the intestine like a bullet, and headed straight into the colon, where the tumor cells lapped it up right away!

The group receiving sugary drinks did not develop more colon tumors than mice who were fed plain water. But again, their tumors were more dangerous and faster growing. They found that once inside the tumor cells, the fructose sugar was enzymatically broken down by fructokinase, and this weakened the cell and reduced it’s energy reserves. Not good. The cell, in an effort to survive, signaled more glucose in order to restore itself. This is termed “glycolysis” caused the tumors to grow rapidly. Again, not good!

How much high fructose corn syrup is too much?
Does sugar directly feed cancer cells? Or is it the weight gain associated with HFCS that is really driving the problem? Is it because these types of sugars are ‘drug muggers’ of your probiotics? You cannot have a healthy immune system to even recognize cells that have gone rogue, if you don’t have a healthy gut microflora. Whether it’s a lack of probiotics, or the fact that sugar is providing food for tumor cells, or other, the end result is the same: Faster growing cancer.

Research suggests that the fructose/glucose sweetener could be speeding the growth of precancerous polyps in the colon that would otherwise take decades to develop and cause problems. If you have a sibling or parent who suffered colon (or colorectal cancer), you should take this research seriously as I do. My brother died of colon cancer (read about Danny HERE) and so I stay tuned in to research, especially because it’s so easy to choose another beverage over the ones that are suspect when it comes to tumor growth.

Maybe it’s not “easy” … as I type that sentence I’m reminded of a conversation I had with one of my sweet friends today. I don’t normally lecture friends, because I accept them just they way they are. However, this friend is one I feel close to, and she drinks 15 cans of Diet Coke a day, every day. Today, while we were driving home from Hobby Lobby, I told her there was new (and negative) research, and asked “Would you be willing to drink 10 cans a day instead of 15 just because I love you and I’m worried?”
This was her reply:

“Water? Nah. I get that when I take a shower… and it’s also good for flushing the toilet.”

She went on to explain that her mom put Diet Coke in her sippy cup from the time she was a toddler, so there’s nothing else that comforts her like soda, except a Cranberry Vodka and that’s all she drinks for her hydration each day.

Not giving up, I said that the human body is made from water, and that’s what the body needs to hydrate itself properly. Still no luck.

Well, I tried. You have to try when you care about someone, right? Regardless, water is a great choice if you’re trying to hydrate. And if you like fizzy drinks, try Seltzer water and some natural sweeteners and flavorings. Try to find drinks that are low or free of HFCS. Herbal tea is another great option for hydration. I’m not trying to make anyone miserable here, my intentions are good.

Before closing, I would like make one distinction. Colon cancer is different than colorectal cancer because the tumors grow in a different region of the gut. The lower rectal area is where colorectal cancer grows. This is what supermodel and actress Farrah Fawcett passed away from.

Having a family history, certain genes, alcohol use, smoking, having polyps and inflammatory bowel disease are all known risk factors for tumors of the gut. So is working a night shift! I know that sounds weird but it’s true, and scientists think it’s the reduction in melatonin which is a hormone that has anti-cancer benefits. Working the night shift causes reduced melatonin which may correspond to higher risks of all types of cancer.

As for soda and HFCS, you might be thinking that diet drinks are safer, but the jury seems to agree that diet drinks are not a good alternative either. Beverages containing artificial sweeteners seem to also have their own set of problems when you drink them in excess. A quick google search will reveal the latest research, and you can also read my article entitled, Diet Drinks Associated with Stroke.

While we don’t understand the exact mechanism by which sugary drinks fuel cancer, we certainly have enough common sense to choose wisely at every meal. If you are raising children, it’s best to give them fresh pure water for hydration. They may whine, cry and possibly throw a tantrum, but at least you will be doing the right thing. That way when they reach adulthood, and have their own children, they will have formed health drinking habits that do not cause them to suffer with obesity, diabetes, heart attack and stroke. Hydration with pure water has also been shown to reduce the frequency of certain migraines.