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The Official Newsletter of
updated November 21, 2013

Sugar Doesn't 
Cause Cancer

by Ron Brown, Ph.D., author of The Body Fat Guide 

"Ron Brown is a certified fitness trainer who doesn't have an inch of flab on his body. He'll tell you what you can do to become fit and trim too." 
Washington DC

WHICH MACRONUTRIENT in the Western diet, protein, carbohydrate, or fat, has been linked to the cause of cancer? Fat, which is commonly vilified in our society, may be your first choice, and it's true that BODY fat, the surplus energy stored in your body tissues, is causally related to many types of cancer. But dietary fat in our food isn't a cause of cancer. Perhaps you've heard that eating too much protein is harmful, and you might select protein as your answer. But, surprise! According to several research studies, the macronutrient in our diet associated with the cause of cancer is carbohydrate! 

All dietary carbohydrates are digested to simple sugars like glucose, which is circulated to all body cells including cancer cells, and which provides energy for growth and maintenance.  A popular myth currently places the blame on sugar as a cause of cancer. Some popular "alternative" diet practitioners claim to treat cancer by eliminating most dietary sources of carbohydrates, even fresh fruit, from their patients' diets. Their idea is to starve the cancer cells by denying the cells sugar. 

However, the rationale of these unproven and potentially harmful treatments are easily disproved by physiological facts that contradict the sugar/cancer "hypothesis." For example, even if you eat no carbohydrates at all, your liver will breakdown fat and protein from your diet and from internal storage sites to create all the glucose needed by your body cells and cancer cells in a process known as gluconeogenesis. The result is that blood sugar levels remain relatively normal, even during prolonged fasting on water only. This is easily verified by administering  a fasting blood glucose test.

But if sugar doesn't cause cancer, why do research studies show that diets high in carbohydrates are linked to the cause of cancer? One confounding variable that these research studies have not considered is the type of carbohydrate foods contained in the examined diet. Carbohydrate foods like grains, legumes, starchy vegetables, potatoes, and sweetened dairy products like ice cream and yogurt are all high in phosphorus. Excessive dietary intake of phosphorus has been identified as a factor in tumor growth. Findings from these high-carbohydrate diet studies should be re-evaluated by controlling for subjects' phosphorus intake.


It is interesting to note that ketogenic diets, first created to treat epilepsy, have been found to be effective in treating some types of cancer. This is not surprising considering two facts. First, ketogenic diets have high levels of dietary fat, one of the macronutrients found not to be associated with causing cancer. Second and more important, by restricting carbohydrates like grains, sweetened dairy, starchy vegetables, and legumes, ketogenic diets also tend to be low in phosphorus, allowing the body to avoid the tumor-growth effects of phosphate toxicity. For example, a typical ketogenic diet for a child on 1,500 kcal (6,300 kJ)  contains only 446.9 mg phosphorus. Dietary fat, which provides the bulk of calories on a ketogenic diet, has no phosphorus.

In a study published in Clinical Nutrition, 1991, titled "Effect of energy substrate manipulation on tumor cell proliferation in parenterally fed cancer patients," Rossi-Fanelli et al. found that a high-glucose diet did not differ significantly from a high-fat diet in affecting tumor growth. These results demonstrated that sugar does not "feed" cancer and fat does not inhibit tumors as some people believe. It is the overall amount of phosphorus in the diet that is most likely the causative dietary factor in tumor growth and inhibition.

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