‘Sugar and Cancer’ Presentation by Dr. Stacy Dunn
By Melody Spurney
Riordan Clinic staff recently participated in a staff development presentation by Dr. Stacy Dunn, ND, Lac, FABNO, titled “Sugar and Cancer.” The following is a recap of her information where she discussed carbohydrate basics, sugar metabolism, the relationship between sugar and cancer, glucose spikes, and glycemic index.
A carbohydrate is defined as a molecule that contains carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen and is synonymous with saccharides in biochemistry, which comes from the Greek word that means sugar.
Four examples of sugar:
• Sucrose: Often called table sugar. It is made from glucose and fructose and is extracted from cane sugar or sugar beet. It is naturally present in most fruits and vegetables.
• Glucose and fructose: are found in fruits, vegetables, and honey.
• Lactose: Commonly called milk sugar because it is found in milk and dairy products.
• Maltose: Commonly known as malt sugar because it is found in malted drinks and beer.
Glucose is important to every cell in the body because they all use glucose (a monosaccharide) to produce energy. The body prioritizes glucose as a source of energy.
Dr. Dunn continued her presentation by describing the link between cancer and sugar. In asking the question, “Does sugar feed cancer?” Her answer was both yes and no.
While there is no direct causation – sugar does not inherently lead to cancer growth or metastasis – the downstream metabolic changes resulting from an over-consumption of sugar do. Studies show there is a clear connection between high blood sugar levels and cancer. There also appears to be a relationship between hyperglycemia, obesity, and metabolic syndrome as they relate to cancer risk.
Dr. Dunn then addressed the question of whether a person should simply cut out all carbs. She said no, and in fact, opened her presentation by telling everyone that she eats carbs.
Avoiding glucose spikes is a key factor in managing carb intake. Blood sugar, or glucose, spikes as rapid increases and drops in glucose concentration after eating. Glucose spikes are harmful because mitochondria can’t utilize excess sugar when they are overloaded with extra glucose. The resulting excess sugar attracts free radicals. A prolonged free radical state creates oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress damages cells, which accelerates aging and increases the risk of chronic and degenerative diseases.
A regular blood glucose test (or glucometer) measures the concentration of glucose free flowing in your blood. However, it does not measure fructose. Dr. Dunn stressed that fructose is not used by cells and advised avoiding products containing high fructose corn syrup.
The American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) blood sugar guidelines: normal fasting blood sugar is 60-100 mg/dL, 100-126 mg/dL is prediabetic, and 126 mg/dL or higher is considered diabetic. However, optimal fasting glucose is 72-85 mg/dL.
Additionally, the ADA’s guidelines for post-eating glucose levels are 140 mg/dL or less. Optimally, glucose levels should increase by no more than 30 mg/dL after eating.
Excess glucose can cause or speed up the process of glycation, when a glucose molecule binds to another type of molecule, such as protein or fat. While this is a normal process, an acceleration caused by excess glucose can also deteriorate organs, including the skin, and form wrinkles. While this process can’t be stopped, an individual can make choices to slow it down or speed it up. Excess glucose, especially fructose, glycates 10 times faster than other glucose. She added that there is no current way to measure fructose spikes. The best way to test the glycation process is the hemoglobin A1c blood test. Glycation and oxidative stress contribute to a state of inflammation, which can contribute to cancer.
Tips to Control Glucose Spikes
• Practice intermittent fasting. 13 hours is ideal. Intermittent
fasting can lower insulin levels and increase insulin sensitivity.
• Choose complex carbs.
• Control portion sizes.
• Get enough sleep.
• Move after eating. For example, take a 20-minute walk.
• Manage stress.
The glycemic index (GI) is a relative percentage ranking of carbohydrates in foods according to how they affect blood sugar levels. It is measured on a scale from 0 to 100. Food with a higher GI score will spike blood sugar more quickly. Choosing foods with lower GI scores is advised. GI ranges are defined as 0-55 is low; 56-69 is moderate, and 70 or above is high.
Dr. Dunn further explained the glycemic load. The glycemic index tells just part of the story. To understand a food’s complete effect on blood sugar, you need to know both how quickly it makes glucose enter the bloodstream and how much glucose per serving it can deliver.
The separate measure, called glycemic load, does both. It gives a more accurate picture of a food’s real-life impact on your blood sugar. One example is a watermelon, which has a high glycemic index of 80. However, because a serving of watermelon has so few carbohydrates, its glycemic load is only 5. Glycemic load ranges are defined as low, less than 10; moderate, 11-19; and high, 20 or more. Fiber is also an important factor because it delays gastric emptying and lessens the glucose spike.
And since it is the season for particularly indulgent meals, Dr. Dunn offered advice for those who know they are planning to have a sweet treat or a high-carb meal.
• Mix 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar in water and drink before
• Recommended supplements include fish oil and berberine.
• Take a walk following the meal.
General Year-Round Recommendations
• Eat as organically as possible. Follow a low-carb Mediterranean diet consisting of whole food, lots of vegetables, low grain, healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, raw nuts, and nut butters, and protein that is organic, grass-fed, and hormone-free.
• Drink half your body weight in ounces of filtered water during
• Avoid dairy (although she says ghee and grass-fed butter are
• Avoid processed foods and refined and/or added sugar.
• Follow the practice of intermittent fasting for a minimum of 13
hours per day.
Dr. Dunn concluded her presentation with a final piece of advice: Eat well most of the time. Enjoying an occasional treat is mandatory and a part of a happy and balanced life, she said.