Does Sugar Promote Heart Disease and Cancer?

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Does Sugar Promote Heart Disease and Cancerimage © Focus Pocus LTD – (under license)

In most countries all over the world, heart disease is now the leading cause of mortality of both sexes. In America, the CDC estimates one in every four deaths to be attributed to heart disease. Cancer comes in a close second – with 14 million new cases tallied in 2012. This number is expected to increase by 70 percent in the next 20 years. [1][2]

So how do we fight it? The first thing is to recognize factors that contribute to cancer and heart disease and adjusting our lifestyle in order to reduce risks.

Sugar: The Biggest No-No – But How Will You Avoid It?

It isn’t fat you have to be afraid of – it’s sugar. Sugar is the body’s primary source of energy, being converted into glucose which powers our cells. So it’s essential. However, too much sugar damages our blood vessels and deposits in our body as fat, causing weight gain and obesity – factors that contribute to major diseases that plague the world’s population, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. [3] Too much glucose can even slow the body’s healing process, which is one of the characteristics of diabetes.

The problem with sugar is that it’s insanely hard to avoid. Fat-free items are easy to spot, but almost everything is made with sugar – processed foods, breads, and even fruit drinks that claim to be “healthy”. You also need to be careful of hidden sugar – typically in the form of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) that is in so many foods. Studies have found a link between HFCS and obesity, heart disease and diabetes. [4][5]

The best way to avoid excess sugar consumption is a) eliminate foods with added sugar and lean towards a more savory diet b) reduce processed, packaged foods and opt for more natural alternatives c) check ingredients carefully as a habit and make good shopping choices d) reduce alcoholic beverage consumption.

Sugar And Heart Disease

A 2015 study discovered that chronic consumption of HCFS contributes to cardiac and blood vessel injury and inflammation. [6] Another study published in 2011 linked HCFS consumption with increased levels of post-prandial triglycerides and LDL or “bad” cholesterol. [7]

According to the NIH, people with diabetes have an increased risk for a) heart disease, b) developing heart disease at a younger age, c) and developing a more severe form of cardiac dysfunction. [8]

Sugar And Cancer: Scientific Evidence

Linking high glucose intake with heart disease is fairly well established – but cancer is a different subject. The “mainstream” consensus in the medical community is still that sugar is safe for consumption and doesn’t “cause cancer to grow faster” [9] but new studies have provided evidence that begs to differ.

In 2015, a study discovered that high glucose consumption can cause metastasis of colorectal cancer. [10] One of major symptoms of cancer is severe weight loss (called “cachexia”), meaning cancer cells compete with healthy cells for glucose and energy. When a person has a diet high in glucose, you are providing more fuel to these cancer cells. Another link is through diabetes, which is caused characterized by high glucose levels and insulin production problems. A 2013 study associated high-glucose intake with increased signals to cancer-cell production and proliferation. [11]

Fructose, in particular, was linked to an increased cancer risk in a 2012 study. [12] While glucose has contributed to growth and proliferation of cancer cells, fructose contributes to protein synthesis of more aggressive forms of cancer.

Healthy Diet

As it turns out, adjusting your diet is one of the best natural possible ways to fight heart disease and cancer. Coupled with regular exercise and other good choices, a healthy diet can get rid of unwanted pounds and reduce the risk for numerous chronic diseases.


[1] CDC. Heart Disease Facts.

[2] WHO. Cancer.

[3] American Heart Association. Obesity information.

[4] Morgan, R. (2013). Does consumption of high-fructose corn syrup beverages cause obesity in children?

[5] Sobel, L. & Dalby, E. (2014). Sugar or high fructose corn syrup-what should nurses teach patients and families?

[6] Saygin, M., et. al. (2015). The impact of high fructose on cardiovascular system: Role of α-lipoic acid.

[7] Stanhope, K., et. al. (2011). Consumption of fructose and high fructose corn syrup increase postprandial triglycerides, LDL-cholesterol, and apolipoprotein-B in young men and women.

[8] National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What is Diabetic Heart Disease?

[9] Mayo Clinic. Cancer.

[10] Lin, C., et. al. (2015). Impact of high glucose on metastasis of colon cancer cells.

[11] Garcia-Jimenez, C., et. al. (2013). A new link between diabetes and cancer: enhanced WNT/β-catenin signaling by high glucose.

[12] Port, A., Ruth, M. & Istfan, N. (2012). Fructose consumption and cancer: is there a connection?

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