Friday, 17 July 2015

14. Sugar and Cancer.


     The Government's new guidelines on sugar consumption and obesity provide disturbing reading for those with a sweet tooth.  The report published today by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, (SACN), recommends that no more than 5% of our daily energy in a healthy diet should come from sugars, including those 'free sugars' naturally present in unadulterated honey, fruit juice and other foods. This is a 50% reduction on the previous nutrition guidelines published back in 1991 and nutritionists warn that people conforming to the new guidelines, (which also recommend a 50% increase in fibrous foods consumed), will need to make extreme changes to their present diet.
     The problem with our sugar consumption has been that few have stuck even to the old guidelines of 10%, causing an obesity and diabetes crisis across the entire age spectrum, and the necessity of a new government strategy to tackle childhood obesity and tooth decay. 
     The chart below shows the recommended daily 5% sugar intake:

Maximum sugars intake per day (source: SACN report)

GramsSugar cubesTeaspoons (4g-6g in a teaspoon)
4 to 6 years 19 3 - 5 
7 to 10 years 24 4 - 6 
11 years and above30 5 - 7
      For a child under 11 years of age, 24g or 4-6 tsp of sugar recommended is the equivalent of just two bowls of a cereal like Frosties or  2/3rds of a can of coke and no other sugary food or drink at all for the day.   The 30g limit for adults is down from the old guidelines of 70g for men and 40g for women and is equivalent to one bar of chocolate a day and no other sugar.
     The Government organisation Public Health England, (PHE), is particularly focused on the childhood statistics which show one in three children aged 10 or 11 to be overweight or obese. They point to sweetened fruit juices, squash and fizzy drinks as being a major contributor to this.  
     PHE don't mention cancer in their deliberations but I will, since this blog is all about diet and cancer.  Excessive sugar intake must be regarded as a direct route to cancer because it leads to the Obesity'Clapham Junction' from which we travel on to at least 10  cancerous destinations.  Clinical studies have shown that obesity can lead to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, and cancers of the kidney, colon, rectum, breast (in postmenopausal women), pancreas, ovary, and prostate. 
     So cut out those fizzy drinks and beware the sugar content when you buy tomato based pasta sauce, coleslaw, flavoured water, low fat yoghurt and French Fries! 

Update 11.11.15. 
I have followed Jamie Oliver's campaign to reduce sugar intake by persuading the government to introduce a sugar tax. I confess I thought the idea had merit, but the results of a sugar tax imposed in Denmark make me wonder.
Check out this <iframe src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> youtube before you make up your own mind.

Dr. Ian Hampson, Reader in Viral Oncology, Institute of Cancer Studies, University of Manchester, comments:  
     One of the most obesity-related cancers in post-menopausal women is endometrial (uterine) carcinoma which is increasing rapidly.        
     In the UK the incidence has increased by half from early 1990's and in 2012 there were 8,500 cases in the UK (23 women every day).  This is actually the cancer which has the strongest link to obesity with type II diabetes also being a major contributory factor. 
     The problem is that obesity disturbs and de-regulates the effects of insulin and this in turn leads to a greater risk of cancer. Curiously, if the process is reversed by exercise, diet etc this often cures the type II diabetes and the risk of cancer also declines!

Further Reading
Association of Obesity and Cancer Risk in Canada
Obesity and Cancer Risk: Recent Review and Evidence
Obesity and post-menopausal breast cancer 

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