How High-Fructose Corn Syrup Fuels Colon Cancer Development In Mice
While several studies show people with high sugar intakes may be at a greater risk of developing cancer (19, 20, 21, 22). One study also found that when mice were fed high-sugar diets, they developed breast cancer, which then spread to other parts of the body (3). But in recent study High-fructose corn syrup may fuel colon cancer growth, in mice a new study finds.
What is Fructose
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a type of artificial sugar made from corn syrup.
In the recent study, published on (March 21) in the journal Science, researchers found that consuming the equivalent of 12 ounces of a beverage sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup accelerated tumor growth in mice that were predisposed to colon cancer.
- I am sure You are transform by the information you get through me, I am also sure you can be part of our daily updates. Why not leave your email behind let me keep you informed with Inspirations, Health Columns and News always.
Still, because the study was done in mice, more research is needed to see if the findings apply to humans. But “our findings in animal models suggest that chronic consumption of sugary drinks can shorten the time it takes [colon] cancer to develop,” study co-senior author Dr. Jihye Yun, an assistant professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said in a statement. Yun conducted the work as a postdoctoral fellow at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.
The researchers noted that there’s been a rise in colorectal cancer rates among young people in recent decades — during the same time that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has increased. If the new results prove true for humans as well, the findings might help explain this link.
The study also suggests potential ways to reverse the tumor-promoting effects of high-fructose corn syrup, the authors said.
Previous studies in people have linked consumption of sugary drinks with obesity, and obesity in turn is linked with an increased risk of developing colon cancer. But whether sugar itself could promote tumor growth was unclear.
One study looking at the diets of over 35,000 women found that those who consumed the most sugary foods and drinks had double the risk of developing colon cancer, compared to those who consumed a diet with the least added sugar (20). While more research is needed, it is thought that the increased risk of cancer may be due to the inflammatory effect of sugar. In the long-term, inflammation caused by sugar may damage DNA and body cells (23).
To examine this question, the researchers turned to a mouse model for colon cancer. In these mice, a gene called APC is deleted, which predisposes them to developing polyps, the early stages of colon cancer. This model is similar to what happens in humans — more than 90 percent of people with colorectal cancer also have mutations in the APC gene, the authors said.
When these mice were given water sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, they developed colon tumors that were larger and more advanced than mice who were given just water. The tumor-enhancing effect of high-fructose corn syrup was seen even in mice that weren’t obese.
Lead study author Dr. Marcus Goncalves, an assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, noted in the statement that the study didn’t “show that giving high-fructose syrup causes new tumors, because these mice develop tumors even on normal diets free of added sugar … But when you give them this additional sugar, the tumors grow much bigger.”
The researchers also found that the mouse tumors readily took in both glucose and fructose. Within the tumors, an enzyme known as KHK (ketohexokinase) changed fructose into a compound called fructose-1-phosphate, which promotes the production of fats necessary for tumor growth; and also makes it easier for the tumors to use glucose for energy.
The findings suggest that drugs that target KHK in tumor cells may reverse the tumor-enhancing effects of high-fructose corn syrup, the authors said.
But what about sweeteners besides high-fructose corn syrup? Preliminary experiments suggest that added table sugar has the same effect in these mice, the authors said.
Sugar and Cancer
It’s important to note that there is a difference between added sugar and natural sugar.
Added sugar is removed from its original source and added to foods and drinks to serve as a sweetener or increase shelf life.
Added sugar is found mostly in processed foods and drinks, though table sugar is also considered an added sugar. Other common forms include high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), sucrose, fructose, glucose and corn sugar.
Among US adults, around 13% of total calories come from added sugar. This is high, considering that government guidelines advise that no more than 5% to 15% of calories should come from both solid fats and added sugar (36).
However, natural sugar has not been linked to inflammation. In fact, many foods containing natural sugars, such as fruits and vegetables, may be anti-inflammatory.
Consuming natural sugars should not be any cause for concern. That’s because they act very differently than added sugar when consumed and digested in the body.
Natural sugar is usually consumed within whole foods. Thus, it is accompanied by other nutrients, such as protein and fiber, which cause natural sugars to be absorbed slowly. The steady absorption of natural sugar prevents blood sugar spikes. Excessive fructose or HFCS consumption can also lead to insulin resistance, a condition that can result in type 2 diabetes (11, 19).
In healthy individuals, insulin increases in response to the consumption of carbs, transporting them out of the bloodstream and into the cells. However, the regular consumption of excess fructose can make your body resistant to insulin’s effects.
Eventually, this decreases the “flexibility” of your cells to metabolize carbs. Over the long term, both insulin levels and blood sugar go up.
In addition to diabetes, HFCS may also play a role in metabolic syndrome, which has been linked to many diseases, including heart disease and certain cancers (20).