Image Source: freedigitalphotos.net / Tuomas Lehtinen
Healthy Strategies to Avoid Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome
As a follow up to my article Sugar, Metabolic Syndrome, Diabetes and Breast Cancer Risk, today I am providing you with some healthy strategies to avoid these conditions. Be prepared, this is going to be one long post but full of great information on how to avoid insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, both of which are risk factors for breast cancer.
If you have read my article (link above) you will know that having diabetes gives you an increased risk of breast cancer. Conversely, having breast cancer puts you at a higher risk for diabetes. It is clear that blood sugar problems are creating many other health problems for us. By incorporating positive lifestyle changes, however, you can dramatically reduce your risk of getting the diseases associated with metabolic syndrome, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer.
Most of the strategies in this list revolve around attaining and keeping a healthy weight. If you will recall from last week’s article, one of the tell-tale risk factors for metabolic syndrome is having a waist circumference of over 35 inches (88.9 cm). An overabundance of belly fat (having an “apple” shape) is not something you should be accepting and living with and I apologize if that sounds harsh, but it really is THAT important. So without further ado, here are the things you can do to help yourself.
Get Your Insulin Levels Tested
Go to your doctor and get your insulin levels tested. I recommend doing this at the very outset of your “get healthy” program, because then you will know exactly what you are dealing with. Get your doctor to do a fasting glucose test where you fast for 10-12 hours prior to having a small amount of blood drawn. This is a very effective way to see what is happening in your body with regard to insulin.
Eat A Healthy Diet
Simply by reducing your calorie/kilojoule intake is a good start toward your weight loss goals. More specifically I recommend:
Detox Your Body From Sugar. The first thing necessary for you to lose the belly fat will be that you will need to educate yourself on exactly how many foods contain added sugars. Things which at first glance look like they should be good for you, such as boxed cereals, fruit juices, crackers, yogurt, canned soups, sliced bread, even energy bars. The average diet in England, America and Australia contains about 22 teaspoons of sugar per day and it can be higher than that in less developed countries where American food has been introduced. Our consumption of sugar has risen 28 percent since 1983! No wonder we are in trouble. So how much sugar is it safe to consume? About 4-7 tsp per day, max. The first three days will be the worst for sugar cravings but once you get past that, it becomes easier and easier to avoid sugar.
Become A Label Reader. Pay attention to words in the ingredients list like sugar – well that one is obvious but the rest may not be – glucose, sucrose, maltose, dextrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, galactose, lactose, malt syrup, cane juice, dehydrated cane juice, cane juice solids, cane juice crystals, dextrin, maltodextrin, barley malt, beet sugar, caramel, buttered syrup, carob syrup, date sugar, diatase, diatastic malt, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, dehydrated fruit juice, fruit juice crystals, golden syrup, turbinado, sorghum syrup, refiner’s syrup and ethyl maltol. If the product has any of these in it, avoid those products like the plague, they are all sugar in disguise. We need to stop eating these things and the only way we stop it is with our pocketbooks. It’s simple – we quit buying these products for any reason and they stop producing them due to lack of interest.
Foods To Exclude. Reducing your consumption of sugar and other carbohydrates is the absolute best way to lose belly fat, reduce weight and decrease insulin resistance problems, even better than cutting fat from your diet. Carbs come from many different places, some of which are rather surprising. This is by no means an exhaustive list:
All of the forms of sugar listed above
Breads, tortillas, baked goods, pasta, pizza, rice
Crackers, chips, pretzels
Fruit – Yes, fruit – although in one respect fruit is healthy for you due to the phytochemicals, antioxidants and fiber, if you are trying to lose weight, you must reduce your consumption of fruit because it is high in fructose. If you are struggling with insulin resistance, keep your daily fructose intake to less than 15 grams or less. A small amount of fruit is okay – for instance 10 sweet cherries is about 4 grams of fructose. An apple is 9.5 grams, 1 cup of blueberries is 7.4. Get yourself a handy chart (Dr Mercola has one, see reference below) and keep an eye on it for fructose content.
Foods To Include. These are the foods that will help you stay healthy. Make sure to include plenty of these:
All vegetables except corn or potatoes (sweet potatoes are better)
Fresh juices made from mostly vegetables
Fish, especially deep sea fish
Grass Fed Organic Meat
Healthy Fats & Oils (like olive, coconut, butter)
Small amount of Legumes (yes they are carbs but read below)
It may sound as though that does not leave you with much but that is just not true. Is it going to be easy? No. But you will have a wide variety of food still to enjoy and you can eat plenty of them, as many as you like. Along with decreasing inflammation in the body, eating this way provides you with energy, ample vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and dietary fiber. It may take more forethought and food preparation but it is well worth the effort and your life may depend upon it.
Loads of Healthy Eating Tips
Eat small, frequent meals to keep blood sugar in a more healthy range. Eating large meals can flood the bloodstream with glucose and insulin. Experiment with this until you find what helps you you feel your best, but generally eating six small meals is much better for your metabolism than three large meals.
Beans/Legumes are carbohydrates but they are one of the better choices because of their fiber content and because the carbs in legumes are more slowly digested and will not spike your blood sugars quite so high.
Foods high in magnesium help to decrease the incidence of metabolic syndrome, so be sure to include lots of leafy green vegetables like lettuce, kale and spinach as well as almonds, cashews and other nuts, avocados, beans, soybeans, and halibut.
Instead of a sandwich, roll up your meat and cheese in a big lettuce leaf.
Instead of pasta, learn to use a spiralizer and create pasta-like strands from your veggies – the raw food websites will show you how it’s done (see below for some good raw food website recommendations). You can create some really delicious meals with raw food and they are full of plenty of natural vitamins and living enzymes. Try a new raw food recipe or two every week.
Drink plenty of filtered water throughout the day. It helps to increase your metabolism, it helps you flush out toxins and keeps you feeling a little more full for a longer period of time. Sugar cravings often occur when a person is dehydrated, so drinking plenty of filtered water just makes sense.
Specific Foods That Make A Difference
Carrots And Other Orange, Yellow & Red Veggies – A Japanese study done with over 1,000 people who were followed over a ten year period indicated that for those whose diet included plenty of carotenoids (naturally occurring pigments in brightly colored vegetables like carrots and other yellow, orange and red veggies) eating this way was associated with a much decreased risk of developing metabolic syndrome 1.
Cinnamon – Research shows that cinnamon helps to transport glucose into the cells, thus reducing blood sugar levels. One study in particular indicated that simply drinking cinnamon tea after a meal helped to lower blood glucose levels. 2 Ordinary cinnamon, exactly like the one you can get at your local supermarket, is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to help control blood sugar levels. You can add it to green juices, take it in a tea, sprinkle it on foods or take it in capsules.
Cayenne pepper – Contains capsaicin, a phytochemical known to have anti-inflammatory and insulin lowering properties. A study on women with gestational diabetes mellitus revealed that ingestion of capsaicin improved hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia 3. Capsaicin is also known to help boost metabolism, improve blood circulation, and is even associated with decreasing blood pressure. One 2015 study indicated that eating African bird’s eye chili (peri peri) also resulted in decreased insulin concentrations on overweight individuals. 4 Cayenne pepper is available either fresh or dried (ground spice), and in capsule form. You can make cayenne pepper tea by mixing about one quarter to one half teaspoon of cayenne pepper steeped in a cup of hot water. You can add it to your food, stir it into fresh juices or tea. Just be careful – use too much and it can give you a stomach ache so you may need to play around with the quantity you use. Also if you are on blood thinning medications, do not use cayenne pepper.
Green tea – Did you know that green tea can helps you lose belly fat? It contains a phytochemical known as catechin which boosts metabolism. One study demonstrated that people drinking green tea and doing strength training had significant increases in resting metabolic rate, lean body mass and muscle strength, and significant decreases in body fat, triglycerides, and waist circumference as compared to those who did not drink the green tea but partook in the same exercise. 5 Green tea is also full of antioxidants which have been proven to be beneficial for metabolic syndrome.
Increase Physical Activity
If you tend to be sedentary please know that you are putting yourself at a much higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome. By increasing your level of exercise, you are not only boosting your metabolism, you are also increasing your immune system and decreasing stress levels. Try to aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on at least five days of the week. Try to avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time – standing up or engaging in a little vigorous activity (running in place or going for a 1-2 minute walk) has more benefits than you can imagine.
Find something you like to do that keeps you moving. Get some exercise DVDs that are geared toward gentle movement such as yoga. Try Pilates. Get out and walk every day for 30 minutes. Ride a bicycle. Go hiking with a friend. If you don’t have a dog, borrow your neighbor’s dog (with their permission of course) and take it for a walk. Try a rebounder (mini trampoline – great for the lymphatic system). Take a dance class. But find something you like to do and become more active. It will be one of the best things you ever do for yourself, I promise.
Smoking cigarettes actually increases insulin resistance and worsens the health consequences of metabolic syndrome. Please do find a way to stop and if you need help, get help. See a therapist who does hypnosis, see your doctor for a nicotine patch, but please stop smoking.
Supplements That Make A Difference
Chromium – a mineral required by the body to metabolize sugars and fats. In its absence, cells can become insensitive to insulin but with it, insulin becomes much more efficient at converting glucose to energy for the cells. It most likely will not help you if your pancreas has ceased to manufacture insulin and it doesn’t appear to improve the efficiency of injected insulin but one study done with patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus demonstrated that the patients who took chromium enjoyed significantly reduced fasting glucose concentrations 6. The recommended dosage is 200 mcg of chromium per day.
Coenzyme Q10 – In addition to being protective for the heart and blood vessels, a brand new study indicates that 100 mg of CoQ10 supplementation for people with metabolic syndrome resulted in a significant reduction in serum insulin levels7. CoQ10 also slows degeneration of brain and nerve cells and is associated with anti-aging. Recommended dosage: 100 mg per day
Alpha Lipoic Acid – One Italian study examined postmenopausal women at high risk of developing breast cancer due to family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or personal history of ductal hyperplasia. The women were asked to follow a low calorie diet and were given alpha lipoic acid combined with inositol (part of the B complex group of vitamins) and followed for 6 months. It was discovered that compared to the placebo group, those taking the combination of alpha lipoic acid and inositol had lower triglycerides, increased insulin sensitivity, reduced blood insulin levels, increased HDL (the good) cholesterol, and less belly fat 8. Recommended dosage: 500 mg alpha lipoic acid, 300 mg to 2000 mg inositol per day.
Pycnogenol (maritime pine bark extract) – A study reported in 2013 involving 64 people aged 45-55 years, all of whom had the five risk factors for metabolic syndrome, were given 150 mg daily of pycnogenol while another group of 66 people with the same risk profiles were used as controls. Compared to the control group, those taking pycnogenol showed decreased waist circumference, lower triglycerides, lower blood pressure, decreased fasting glucose and plasma free radicals, and increased HDL cholesterol levels 9. Recommended Dosage: 150 mg daily
Vitamin D3 – We have long been told that people who are obese have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. But a 2015 Spanish study found that people with low levels of vitamin D may have a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, or metabolic syndrome, regardless of whether they were obese or thin 10. Find out what your vitamin D levels are and if you are found to be low, supplementing with 5,000 iu of vitamin D3 daily just makes good sense.
It is really important to take care of your stress levels in positive ways because when you are stressed, your body releases cortisol. Some health gurus refer to cortisol as the “death” hormone because of its bad influence on the systems of the body. Cortisol also encourages your body to store excess fat in the lower abdomen!
To handle stress more effectively than resorting to sugar, alcohol, tobacco, or television, try calming breathing exercises and meditation. Meditation is easy to do, completely free and comes without side effects other than feelings of calm, peace, and serenity. If you have tried meditation in the past and found it too difficult, or found your mind straying, you might like to try my how-to-meditate course.
Research shows that when you are stressed you are more likely to eat or drink or smoke something that is harmful to your health. Meditation helps to calm your nervous system and helps you to get to sleep and to also get a deeper quality of REM sleep. Did you know that missing just one night of sleep can induce insulin resistance? 11
Meditation does take a bit of practice but so does anything worth learning. It only takes about three weeks to change a bad habit (like resorting to alcohol to manage stress) into a good one (like meditation).
Essential Oils That May Make A Difference
Essential oils may also be of assistance with easing the problems associated with metabolic syndrome. At the very least, essential oils help relieve the stress that may raise blood glucose levels. But recent research – so far done only on animals – shows that certain plant compounds in essential oils may also have an effect on lowering blood sugar.
Fennel essential oil – contains a compound known as trans-anethole and animal studies indicate trans anethole was found to be beneficial in cases of hyperglycemia by regulating key enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism. 12
Cinnamon bark essential oil – research done on mice with type II diabetes indicated cinnamon oil significantly decreased fasting blood glucose concentration. Also serum triglycerides were reduced, while HDL cholesterol levels were significantly increased and glucose tolerance was improved. 13
I would not recommend using essential oils on their own to combat metabolic syndrome but in combination with all of the strategies listed above, the research indicates essential oils could be beneficial. I would only use them externally on the soles of the feet, as the feet have large pores and the oils can be easily absorbed there.
I suspect there are a good many more essential oils than what I have listed here, and as I locate them and find the research, I will add to this section.
1. High serum carotenoids associated with lower risk for the metabolic syndrome and its components among Japanese subjects: Mikkabi cohort study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26365147
2. Effect of Cinnamon Tea on Postprandial Glucose Concentration – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4516848/
3. Capsaicin-containing chili improved postprandial hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, and fasting lipid disorders in women with gestational diabetes mellitus and lowered the incidence of large-for-gestational-age newborns – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25771490
4. The metabolic effects of a commercially available chicken peri-peri (African bird’s eye chilli) meal in overweight individuals – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26360825
5. The Effects of Green Tea Consumption and Resistance Training on Body Composition and Resting Metabolic Rate in Overweight or Obese Women – http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jmf.2012.0062
6. Beneficial effects of oral chromium picolinate supplementation on glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes: A randomized clinical study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26302914
7. The effects of coenzyme Q10 administration on glucose homeostasis parameters, lipid profiles, biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in patients with metabolic syndrome – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26385228
8. Combination of inositol and alpha lipoic acid in metabolic syndrome-affected women: a randomized placebo-controlled trial – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3765513/
9. Pycnogenol® supplementation improves health risk factors in subjects with metabolic syndrome – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23359520
10. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and adipose tissue vitamin D receptor gene expression: relationship with obesity and type 2 diabetes – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25706239
11. One sleepless night can induce insulin resistance in healthy people –
12. Trans-anethole, a terpenoid ameliorates hyperglycemia by regulating key enzymes of carbohydrate metabolism in streptozotocin induced diabetic rats – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25708856
13. Antidiabetic effects of cinnamon oil in diabetic KK-Ay mice – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20561948
Cut Down On Carbs to Reduce Body Fat – http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/07/08/cut-down-on-carbs-to-reduce-body-fat.aspx
Raw Food Recipes:
GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
Image source: freedigitalphotos.net / Tuomas Lehtinen
Sugar, Metabolic Syndrome, Diabetes And Breast Cancer Risk
What do you suppose sugar, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and breast cancer have in common? They are all intertwined. I have recently been reading quite a few studies which indicate that women with diabetes are at a higher risk for breast cancer. There also exist some studies which show the opposite to be true – that postmenopausal women who develop breast cancer have a higher risk of also developing diabetes, as do women with BRCA1/2 gene mutations, and those who take tamoxifen. Clearly, the way we eat is creating huge problems for health in many ways and with this article I hope to draw attention to the problem and explain why it’s happening. In my next article, I will make some recommendations on what we can do about it.
Those With Diabetes Have Increased Risk Of Breast Cancer
A 2015 study done in Canada indicates that women with diabetes not only have a higher risk of breast cancer, they also are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. 1 The study analyzed data from 2007 to 2012 for over 38,000 women who were between the ages of 20 to 105 diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. It was discovered that nearly 16 percent had diabetes. The study further revealed that women with diabetes were 14 percent more likely to have stage II breast cancer, 21 percent more likely to have stage III, and 16 percent more likely to have stage IV breast cancer. The most disturbing parts of the study, however, were that the five-year survival rate for these breast cancer patients with diabetes was a whopping 15 percent lower than for those without diabetes, and that the breast cancer patients with diabetes were more likely to have larger tumors compared to those without diabetes.
Researchers have also discovered that for people with pre-existing cases of diabetes who were also diagnosed with breast cancer, this unfortunate population had a 40 percent increased risk of death over those who did not have diabetes. 2
Those With Breast Cancer Have Increased Risk of Diabetes
A 2013 Canadian study set out to discover whether postmenopausal women who develop breast cancer had a higher incidence of diabetes than those who do not develop breast cancer. 3 The study found that the risk of diabetes among breast cancer survivors, compared to women without breast cancer, began to increase two years after diagnosis. Interestingly, for the women with breast cancer who also had chemotherapy, the risk of developing diabetes was highest in the first two years after diagnosis – these women had a huge 24 percent increased risk, which then declined to an eight percent increased risk after ten years.
One 2012 study indicated that taking tamoxifen, one of the most often prescribed hormonal treatments for breast cancer, was associated with an increased risk for diabetes. 4 Researchers stated that women taking tamoxifen had a “significantly higher risk of diabetes” compared to those who did not take it.
There is an increased risk for developing diabetes among those with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations as well. A 2011 study reported that for those women who carried the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation and diagnosed with breast cancer, risk of developing diabetes doubled in the 15 year period after diagnosis, and if they had a high body mass index, this was associated with an even higher risk. 5
We Clearly Have A Problem
It is no secret that our society has a big problem with obesity and making bad food choices, which is creating problems for us such as insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, changes in hormone levels, type II diabetes and breast and other cancers. However, it is not just obesity that puts a person at a higher risk for these problems. One 2015 study indicated that high insulin levels were being discovered in postmenopausal women who were not obese and that factor put them at a higher risk for breast cancer than for those who were obese but had normal insulin levels. 6
Experts say that it is the relationship of sugar to higher insulin levels and related growth factors that may be influencing cancer cell growth more than anything. Insulin receptors are plentiful on breast cancer cells 7, making them respond more than normal cells to the growth promotion properties of insulin.
The above studies make it clear that there is a correlation between high levels of insulin, diabetes and breast cancer and that if you have both breast cancer and high insulin levels or diabetes, your chances of survival to old age are reduced by as much as 40 percent. Take heart, though, there are many things we can do about this.
Symptoms Of Metabolic Syndrome
The symptoms of metabolic syndrome are often very quiet and easily ignored. People with metabolic syndrome may have a tendency to be somewhat overweight, especially around the belly. Other tell-tale signs are (for women) ovarian cysts (metabolic syndrome is associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome) and irregular periods. Men and women can both experience increased incidence of skin tags, benign growths on their skin that usually appear on the neck and back and in places where skin tends to stay moist such as under the breast and underarms. In addition, they can have a darker pigmentation or discoloration of the skin (called acanthosis nigricans) over the back of the neck and underarms. People with metabolic syndrome also tend to have elevated blood pressure, elevated levels of triglycerides in their blood and lower levels of the good kind of cholesterol, HDL.
Some Anatomy & Physiology
If you have been reading my posts, or indeed, any website dedicated to helping people get well after cancer, you will have read that cancer cells feed on sugar. All you need to do is Google the term “sugar feeds cancer” and you will get over 4 million results. The “sugar feeds cancer” rule, however, is only part of the story. It’s still good advice to avoid sugar because it is implicated with inflammation and acidity for the body and it undermines the immune system, all of which are conditions in which cancer loves to thrive. But it’s more complicated than that.
All cells, including cancer cells, depend on sugar being in the bloodstream for energy. I’m going to share some basic anatomy and physiology with you, because if you understand what’s going on in your body, you can better understand why high blood sugar levels (and thus high insulin levels) are to be avoided.
All of the food we eat – the protein, the fiber, the fats, and the carbohydrates — gets broken down in the digestive process into smaller proteins, micronutrients and sugars (glucose). Our bodies use the nutrients to fuel cellular metabolism, rebuild cells that have been used up, and for immune function.
The body’s basic fuel is glucose, which is carried by the bloodstream and ushered into individual cells by the action of insulin, a hormone secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas in response to rising blood sugar levels. Insulin attaches to and signals the cells of the body to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. Even muscle and fat cells take up the glucose for use later. Cells obtain energy immediately from the glucose or convert it to fat for long-term storage.
Our demand for fuel varies from moment to moment, but our brains require that our blood sugar levels be stable. Insulin is responsible for getting the cells the energy they need without letting blood sugar levels dip too low. The body monitors the sugar from what we have digested and what is in our blood, as well as what our cells are demanding, and a healthy body releases insulin in just the right amounts at just the right time.
So far so good?
The problem is that our metabolism evolved many eons ago when our diet consisted of more lean proteins and fats and many fewer carbohydrates. Our ancient ancestors went through periods of intermittent famine when food was scarce, and this is where the activity of insulin really shines. When plenty of food is available, insulin helps excess glucose be stored in fat and muscle cells, and during periods of famine when glucose levels are low, the body releases the glucose on an as-needed basis from fat and muscle. These days, however, we do not suffer through periods of famine where food is scarce, so we tend to be overweight, have love handles, muffin tops etc and this is putting us at a higher risk for all kinds of problems.
Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome & Type II Diabetes
When people eat too many carbohydrates and this continues over a long period of time, they may become increasingly resistant to insulin. Cells that are resistant to insulin are slower to bring sugar in, resulting in high blood sugar levels. That makes the body respond by creating even more insulin and our bodies were not designed for such prolonged periods of high levels of insulin. This disrupts cellular metabolism, is implicated in many inflammatory conditions, and it undermines the immune system. The insulin-making cells of the pancreas can’t keep up with the demand for more insulin and the body eventually transitions from being insulin resistant to a condition known as metabolic syndrome, which can (if not halted) progress to type II diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome, also known as Syndrome X, is the name given to a group of symptoms linked to insulin resistance. It is estimated that about 25 percent of the population in the USA (80 million people!) has at least three of the following symptoms:
1. Too much belly fat – A waist circumference of more than 40 inches in men or 35 inches in women;
2. High levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) – over 150 mg/dl
3. Raised blood pressure – Over 130/85;
4. Fasting glucose readings of over 110 mg/dl;
5. Low levels of good cholesterol (HDL) – under 40 mg/dl for men and under 50 mg/dl for women.
1. The association between diabetes and breast cancer stage at diagnosis: a population-based study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25779100
2. Association Between Metformin Therapy and Mortality After Breast Cancer – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3781496/
3. Incidence of diabetes among postmenopausal breast cancer survivors – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23238788
4. Association between tamoxifen treatment and diabetes: a population-based study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21935915
5. Diabetes and Breast Cancer Among Women With BRCA1 and BRCA2 Mutation – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3413077/
6. Breast cancer risk in metabolically healthy but overweight postmenopausal women – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25593034
7. Elevated insulin receptor content in human breast cancer – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC296896/
GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
One of the first things I recommend to my clients going through breast cancer is to get sugar out of their diets and I have a good reason for that. The problem with having too much sugar in your diet, especially if you’ve had or do have breast cancer, is that high insulin levels are associated with a 283% increase in breast cancer risk. Sugar is also known to depress your immune system by 50-90% for 5 hours after consumption. It also increases your risk of endometrial cancer.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in June 2014 indicated that processed, simple sugars reduced the activity of white blood cells and increased inflammatory markers in the blood. Neither of which are a good thing if you’re fighting cancer. Of equal interest was this notation: “Meanwhile, the complex carbohydrate fiber (but not starches), such as that found in fruits and vegetable, appear to reduce inflammation in both humans and mice.” 1
I am aware that to avoid the problem of dietary sugar intake, many are turning to artificial sweeteners to sweeten their tea and coffee and to cook with. So what about artificial sweeteners? Are they safe or not?
I went into research mode and found quite a few interesting things for you. There are so many pro- and con- arguments about artificial sweeteners, one could easily be forgiven for getting totally confused.
The Pro Artificial Sweetener Argument
The website of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Library provides us with a “pro” argument. In an article dated 2011 we are told that “Aspartame is a dipeptide molecule produced by joining phenylalanine and aspartic acid. Aspartame itself does not occur naturally but is a manufactured substance.” It also states that “The scientific literature clearly confirms that aspartame never enters the bloodstream as aspartame, because it is so rapidly broken down to its constituent parts,” that is phenylalanine and aspartate, two naturally occurring amino acids. We are also advised that “the human body is well-equipped to use small amounts of methanol produced from foods and beverages, as well as from aspartame. The metabolic pathway is well-understood and well-documented in the scientific literature. First, the methanol from the intestinal tract goes to the liver via portal blood, where the liver enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase converts methanol into formaldehyde. The body very rapidly uses formaldehyde and so formaldehyde never builds up in the body. If the body doesn’t need it, formaldehyde is converted to formic acid within seconds. The formic acid will be either excreted in the urine or broken down to carbon dioxide and water.” 2
The web article referred to above also tells us “formaldehyde is produced by our bodies every day in amounts thousands of times greater than you would ever get from aspartame, as it is a key metabolite that is needed to make other essential compounds, including DNA. Also, the known toxic effects of methanol relate not to formaldehyde, but to the build-up of formic acid in the blood. The breakdown of formic acid is slower than the breakdown of formaldehyde, so if there is a very large dose of methanol (or formaldehyde) coming into the body, formic acid can build up and that causes the adverse effects seen in methanol poisoning.”
Okay, so far so good. Or is it? Formic acid is a known irritant – it’s the same chemical produced by fire ants – and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want it in my bloodstream. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogenic (cancer causing) preservative which causes allergies, contact dermatitis, headaches, and is linked to chronic fatigue and neurotoxicity.
There are many others arguing the case FOR artificial sweeteners, just Google the words “pro artificial sweeteners” to see scores of articles on the Internet.
The Arguments Against Artificial Sweeteners
There are also plenty of arguments against artificial sweeteners. Dr Mercola (one of my trusted sources of information) believes that they should ALL be avoided, and he has some good reasons for feeling that way – they decrease your insulin sensitivity, there is no scientific evidence proving that they actually help with weight loss, they inhibit the release of neurotransmitters in the brain, and they push your health in the wrong direction. He’s written a book about it called Sweet Deception, which I recommend you read. 3
One neurosurgeon in particular, Dr Russell Blaylock, believes there is a connection between a syndrome similar to MS and aspartame. He calls aspartame a dietary excitotoxin, responsible for the breakdown of the myelin sheath of nerve cells, and also deterioration of the blood brain barrier. He has written a book about this: “Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills”.
Subsequent to the Gulf War in the 1990’s there was a huge increase of MS-like symptoms and neurological conditions among returning soldiers and one of the contributing factors to that, it was discovered, was that cases upon cases of sugar-free sodas were left sitting in the hot desert sun waiting for delivery to the various units. Science has discovered that the methanol (wood alcohol) in aspartame coverts to formaldehyde when the temperature of aspartame exceeds 86 degrees Farenheit. It is felt that the formaldehyde was causing a multitude of the symptoms experienced in these veterans. 4
One small study followed two women who were suffering musculoskeletal pain from fibromyalgia and when the two women discontinued use of aspartame, their pain went away. 5 Not exactly a huge study, but also not to be ignored, I believe.
One interesting argument put forth by Dr Michael Greger over at NutritionFacts.Org is contained in this video “The Neurobiology of Artificial Sweeteners”. In this video, it is stated that artificial sweeteners can actually cause us to overeat because after consuming them, the gut tells the brain that there is a lack of nutrition.
Another trusted source, Globalhealingcenter.com, tells us that aspartame is “made from the waste product of E. coli bacteria. To be blunt, it’s made from bacteria poop”. To make matters worse, this bacteria is genetically modified. 6
Are There Safe Alternatives?
Dr Michael Greger at NutritionFacts.org has put together some very helpful information on the subject of artificial sweeteners. See his video “A Harmless Artificial Sweetener”. It’s nice and short, it will take you less than 4 minutes to view the video. According to Dr Greger, it appears there is only one artificial sweetener that is considered to be reasonably safe, and that is erythritol. There is more information about erythritol in this video, also by Dr Greger: “Erythritol May Be A Sweet Antioxidant“.
Stevia Is Not Perfect
Stevia, a sweet herb from South America, has been much studied for benefits and possible health risks. Stevia is 330 times sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way. Claiming inadequate safety research, the FDA had long refused the herb from being included on the “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) list. However, once Pepsi and Coca-Cola discovered how to manipulate and patent stevia, however, it suddenly became “safe” to use as a sweetener and is now sold on grocery store shelves in packets similar to other artificial sweeteners. The FDA reluctantly added the natural stevia extract to the GRAS list as well.
Here’s a warning. If you are going to consume stevia, just make sure it’s the natural stevia extract that you use and not the manipulated one which is processed down to sugar alcohols and other compounds known as steviosides and steviol. The natural one has been utilized by the Paraguayan people for centuries. Apparently stevia is okay for you if you only have a drop or two on a daily basis. You just don’t want to cook with it – for instance don’t replace sugar in all of your recipes with stevia. For more information, watch this video from NutritionFacts.org: “Is Stevia Good For You?”
If you are feeling betrayed by companies that claim to have your best health in mind, you should be. As always – read the labels, people. Know what things are in the products you buy and know what things can be a problem for your health. You can’t trust the companies selling the stuff to tell you the truth, and you can’t rely on the FDA to protect you either.
To Sum Up…
It is obvious that there is a need for further scientific studies. I believe we are best advised to stay away from artificial sweeteners. It is far from clear that artificial sweeteners do what they were designed to do. Or that they are safe. So in the meantime, until we know for sure, you would do better to avoid them. Who needs to put something into their body made from the poop of bacteria?
1. Fast food fever: reviewing the impacts of the Western diet on immunity
3. Sugar Substitutes: What’s Safe And What’s Not
4. Military Admits Gulf War Illness Is From Aspartame
5. Aspartame-induced fibromyalgia, an unusual but curable cause of chronic pain
6. 5 Shocking Facts About Aspartame
Video: Dr. Russell Blaylock Nutrition & Behavior, Dangers of Aspartame http://youtu.be/NEq3SzHI1Mw
GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
Is It Safe To Eat Fruit Sugar – Fructose – When You Have Breast Cancer?
Image source: rgbstock.com / Scott M Liddell
Updated June 18, 2014
One of the questions I am very frequently asked is whether it is safe to eat fruit sugar – fructose – when you have breast cancer, particularly when you are juicing or making smoothies.
First, some interesting facts about sugar.
The journal Nature contained a rather in-your-face article in 2012 stating that refined sugar is a toxic substance that should be regulated like tobacco and alcohol, that it has even been thought to have the same serious health-disrupting effects as cocaine. I’ve heard that before, only coffee and caffeine were lumped into the equation as well.
Most natural therapists feel that the single most important thing you could do from a dietary standpoint is to eliminate refined sugar from your diet, and especially high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) because they are toxic to our bodies. HFCS is a man-made substance which is mainly derived from corn. Also be aware that nearly all HFCS is made from genetically modified corn, which has risk factors all of its own.
HFCS was invented in Japan in 1966. It was introduced to America in 1975. When it was discovered that HFCS was 3 times cheaper to make than sucrose, food and beverage manufacturers began switching their sweeteners from sucrose to HFCS.
Fructose vs Glucose
According to Dr J E Williams in RenegadeHealth.com, “The way your body digests, absorbs, and metabolizes fructose is different from how it processes glucose. Liver metabolism of fructose favors ‘lipogenesis,’ the production of fat in the liver. Unlike glucose, fructose does not stimulate insulin secretion or enhance leptin production. The hormones insulin and leptin act as key signals in the regulation of appetite. Disrupted hormone signaling leads to weight gain because you don’t know when to stop eating.”
Fructose is metabolized mainly in the liver. Contrast that with glucose, which is metabolized by every cell in the body. If you are consuming fructose, that means more work for your liver than if you consumed the same number of calories from starchy foods.
So Is It Safe To Eat Fruit When You Have Breast Cancer?
This is a great question and deserves careful consideration. I am a huge proponent of juicing to help cancer patients regain their health, but I’m also careful to teach people that sugar should be studiously avoided if a person has active cancer because sugar feeds cancer. If a person is well, my advice is that sugar should only be taken infrequently and in moderation.
So yes, it’s true that all of the cells of our body need glucose, or simple sugar, for energy. Even if you were to delete every smidgen of sugar from your diet, your body would still make sugar from other sources such as protein and fat. Research indicates that tumor cells fed both glucose and fructose use these two sugars in very different ways. Cancer cells love both forms of sugar but readily metabolize fructose to increase cell proliferation (growth by rapid production).
Even natural therapists disagree about this subject. Many will advise that we do need to be careful about juicing fruit because sweet juices can elevate your blood sugar levels, while others argue that fruits also contain plenty of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and anti-cancer nutrients that should be included in your wellness regime. It’s true that the fiber and nutrients in fruit act to counter the toxic effects of the sugar.
Here’s my best advice on the matter.
If you have active cancer in your body, go easy on the fruit. Blending might be better for you than juicing (and I discuss the difference in my article The Benefits of Juicing For Breast Cancer – Which Juicer or Blender to Use? ) because the fiber derived from blending helps you to absorb the sugar more slowly and you won’t get the sugar spike that you might from drinking a juice with no fiber in it. Some fruits are better than others – I would definitely include blueberries, strawberries and cherries (just make sure they’re organic). Although carrots and beets do contain fructose, they also contain plenty of cancer-fighting nutrients that we are only beginning to understand. There are plenty of testimonials from people who say they cured their cancer with carrot juice alone. Beet is an important detoxifier for the blood and liver and so incredibly good for you, it should be part of any anti-cancer regime.
Once your cancer is gone, you could then move from blending to juicing and you could include more fruits. Juicing gives your health an enormous boost and helps you to cleanse and detoxify your body’s tissues. Juicing is something I definitely recommend to assist with the elimination of the toxic chemicals you may have received from chemotherapy and radiation, and to bring your body into a more alkaline state. Cancer loves acidity, so being nice and alkaline is well worth achieving.
If you are, for all intents and purposes, cancer free, juice or blend to your heart’s delight, just ensure that you go easy on the fruit sugar, a much better option is to juice or blend organic raw vegetables and plenty of greens like kale and spinach.
For a list of the best things to juice or blend (as well as why), see my page Diet and Cancer.
If you would like to receive my best tips on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences, just sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com). I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
The fact is, high insulin levels (which occur as a result of having lots of sugar in your diet) are associated with a 283% increased risk of breast cancer.
Sugar also depresses your immune system by 50-90% for up to 5 hours after consumption, something cancer patients absolutely cannot afford to have happen.
Cancer cells act much differently than normal cells. Normal cells need oxygen. Cancer cells despise oxygen. In fact, oxygen therapy is a favorite among many of the alternative clinics I have researched.
You see, cancer metabolizes through a process of fermentation. If you know anything about making wine, you’ll know that fermentation requires sugar.
Most natural therapists recommend a specific sort of diet – juicing organic vegetables and fruits is one of the best because the juices contain living enzymes and vitamins which will help to kill the cancer cells. Cancer cells like cooked foods over raw because cooking destroys enzymes and heat sensitive vitamins.
If you’d like to receive my best tips on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences, just sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
Subscribe For Extra Support
Receive my informative newsletter PLUS my gift to you, these 2 eBooks valued at $47. My subscribers also get a treasure trove of info on nutrition, supplements and lifestyle tips on surviving breast cancer.
You have Successfully Subscribed!
your details are kept 100% private
Search the Site
About Marnie Clark
Hi I'm Marnie Clark, breast cancer survivor, and breast cancer coach. I have 20+ years of experience in natural medicine. In 2004/05 I battled breast cancer myself. You can see more about my journey on my page Breast Cancer Diary.
I've been healthy and recurrence-free since 2004 and in 2012 I became a Breast Cancer Coach because I became aware of the fact that whilst there is now a wealth of information on the Internet, much of it is confusing, conflicting, and sometimes just wrong!
Why should you work with me? Because:
(1) You don't want to go through this journey alone, feeling unempowered, frightened or just plain
clueless about what to do to help yourself.
(2) You will have someone working tirelessly on your behalf, putting together a healing plan for
you so you don’t have to lose your precious energy researching what food you should eat,
what supplements you should take, and what other things you can do that will give you the
best chances for survival. Instead you can spend that time resting, meditating, healing.
(3) You will learn what questions to ask your doctor (and have someone to turn to for the
questions they can't or won't answer).
(4) You will be armed with the tools and strategies you will need to get through the therapies you
choose so you can make your body hostile terrain for cancer.
You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.