BREAST HEALTH TIP #21: Avoid Sugar Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates. These foods cause a surge in insulin and women with the highest insulin levels have a 283% higher incidence of breast cancer.
Dangerous Foe in a Sweet Disguise
Estimates are that every year the average American eats almost his or her entire body weight in sugar. The average teenage boy eats thirty-four teaspoons of sugar a day, and the average teenage girl consumes twenty-four. You can easily see how this is possible when you add it up. Sugar is added to virtually all processed foods, especially soda pop. The average can of cola, such as Coke or Pepsi, contains ten to twelve teaspoons of sugar! There’s a new breakfast cereal with a whopping eighteen teaspoons of sugar per serving; that’s one-third of a cup, or the equivalent of forty-eight Hershey’s Kisses. You’re probably aware that sugar’s bad for your teeth, but you can brush them. So, what’s the big deal, you might ask? The big deal is that research shows that sugar and refined carbohydrates are detrimental to your health in a multitude of ways, including increasing the risk of many chronic disorders including diabetes, obesity, heart disease and breast cancer.
Cancer cells love sugar. It’s their preferred fuel. The more sugar you eat, the faster cancer cells grow. Your pancreas responds to sugar by releasing insulin, the hormone that escorts sugar into your cells. When you eat refined simple sugars, such as white table sugar, candy, cookies, or other sugar-laden foods, your blood sugar levels rise very quickly. Your pancreas responds by releasing a lot of insulin. That’s not good. High insulin levels are one of the biggest risk factors and promoters of breast cancer. Women with high insulin levels have a 283 percent greater risk of breast cancer.
When it comes to breast cancer, insulin is no friend. One of the biggest reason is due to the fact that both normal breast cells and cancer cells have insulin receptors on them. When insulin attaches to its receptor, it has the same effect as when estrogen attaches to its receptor; it causes cells to start dividing. The higher your insulin levels are, the faster your breast cells will divide; the faster they divide, the higher your risk of breast cancer is and the faster any existing cancer cells will grow.
There's another wound that insulin can inflict, too. It attacks a portion of the estrogen cycle, making more estrogen available to attach to the estrogen receptors in breast tissue. Insulin regulates how much of the estrogen in your blood is available to attach to estrogen receptors in your breast tissue. When estrogen travels in the blood, it either travels alone seeking a mate (an estrogen receptor), or it travels with a partner (a protein binder) that prevents it from attaching to an estrogen receptor. Insulin regulates the number of protein binders in the blood. So, the higher your insulin levels are, the fewer the number of protein binders there will be and therefore the more free estrogen that will be available to attach to estrogen receptors.
In other words, when your insulin levels are up, free-estrogen levels are up, too. And both of them speed up cell division. That’s why high insulin levels increase your risk of breast cancer so much.
Eating sugar increases your risk of breast cancer in another way. It delivers a major blow to your immune system with the force of a prize fighter. Your immune system is your natural defense against such invaders as bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. Research shows that right after you eat a high-sugar meal, the function of the cells in your immune system drops drastically. In the case of one type of cell in particular, the T lymphocyte (a type of white blood cell), sugar knocks its defense abilities down by at least 50 percent. This effect lasts for a minimum of five hours! Another researcher found that the function of T lymphocytes dropped by 94 percent after a high-sugar meal! This means that right after you’ve eaten a lot of sugar, your body's ability to fight off invaders or destroy cancer cells is tremendously weakened for several hours.