Dear Dietitian – Does Sugar Feed Cancer?

PROMO 660 x 440 Health - Diet Heart Fruit Vegetable Medical - iStock
Published Friday, January 26, 2018
by Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC

Dear Dietitian,

My best friend was just diagnosed with breast cancer.  She has been told that sugar feeds cancer and that she should completely avoid all sweets. Is this true?

Signed, Best Friend

Dear Best Friend,

When I ask people what they think about when they hear the word sugar, they inevitably reply white sugar. Our bodies break down all carbohydrates (starches, fruit, and white sugar) into glucose so that it can enter the cells and be used as energy. So yes, sugar feeds cancer cells as well as all the other cells in your body.  The question is does sugar make cancer worse? The answer is no, there is no credible evidence to support this statement.

The link between sugar and any chronic disease, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc, is that excessive amounts cause weight gain, which in turn increases your risk of certain diseases.

Furthermore, almost all patients undergoing chemotherapy will lose weight, which can result in malnutrition. These patients are advised to eat whatever they can. In a perfect world, everyone would eat the right amounts of protein and complex carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables, but sometimes this just isn't possible.  So if a cancer patient finds ice cream more palatable than boneless, skinless chicken breast, so be it.

Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC, is an award-winning dietitian with over fifteen years of experience. Have a question?  Email Leanne at DearDietitian411@gmail.com.