A study from the University of California, San Diego shows that fermentation of sugar takes the least amount of energy for cells to grow and thrive (Nature, December 3, 2015). I think this study shows how cancer will be cured in the not-so-distant future. Cancer cells multiply so much faster than normal cells do that they have to be fueled by a source that requires the least amount of energy.
Normal cells have two main sources of energy:
• a series of chemical reactions that require oxygen inside mitochondria that are located inside cells (the Krebs Cycle), and
• fermentation of sugar inside cells but outside their mitochondria, called glycolysis.
Every cell in your body except mature red blood cells has many tiny compartments called mitochondria. Cancer cells are different from normal cells because they have defective mitochondria, so they must get their energy from the fermentation of sugars outside mitochondria to grow and multiply. Previous studies have shown that cancer cells are suppressed just by growing them with fresh healthy mitochondria to provide them with a source of energy other than fermentation of sugar. I predict that cancer will soon be cured by reviving the second source of energy provided by mitochondria.
How Normal Cells Become Cancer Cells
Normal cells divide a certain number of times and then die. This is called apoptosis. Apoptosis depends on normal mitochondria. Because cancer cells have defective mitochondria, they lose apoptosis, the genetic signal to divide only so many times and then die, so they can live and divide indefinitely until their host dies. Cancer cells do not kill you just by being cancer, they kill by invading other tissues. They spread from their original site, such as a breast cancer tumor, and move into the brain, the liver or other essential organs and keep them from functioning properly.
We have known for many years that cancer cells take in way too much sugar, but have not known whether cancer causes the increased use of sugar by cancer cells or that sugar causes normal cells to become cancerous. Mina Bissell of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has shown that cancer may be caused by a marked increase in the amount of sugar used for energy in the presence of oxygen.
In 1924, Nobel Prize winner Otto Warburg showed that cancer cells use far more sugar for energy than normal cells do. Bissell’s paper shows that a marked increase in the action of GLUT3 (the chemical that carries sugar into cells) causes normal breast cells to become breast cancer cells. The concentration of GLUT3 is 400 times greater in breast cancer cells than it is in normal cells. Bissell also showed that reducing the entry of sugar into breast cancer cells appears to turn them back into normal cells. Thus if we could block the uptake of sugar only into cancer cells without preventing sugar from entering normal cells, that might be the end of cancer.
Until we find a cure for cancer, I recommend that you do everything you can to keep your blood sugar levels from rising too high. Everything that raises blood sugar increases cancer risk: diabetes, obesity, lack of exercise and a diet high in sugared drinks and sugar-added foods. We do not yet know how to block sugar from cancer cells without also blocking sugar from normal cells. At this time you can reduce your risk for many cancers by following a healthful lifestyle that protects you from frequent high rises in blood sugar.
• Try to exercise before or after your main meal
• Try to exercise every day
• Avoid sugared drinks and sugar-added foods
• Eat plenty of vegetables, whole fruits and seeds (nuts, beans and so forth)
• Do not lie down or go to sleep immediately after you eat
• Grow muscle
• Reduce body fat, particularly in your belly
• Avoid being overweight
• Get blood levels of hydroxy vitamin D levels above 50 nmol/L
• If you are overweight or store fat primarily in your belly, restrict all refined carbohydrates (foods made from flour such as most dry breakfast cereals, bakery products and pastas), even those that do not contain added sugars.
Gabe Mirkin, M.D., has been a practicing physician for over 50 years. He is board-certified in sports medicine, allergy and immunology, pediatrics, and pediatric immunology. This article was originally published on DrMirkin.com. Subscribe to his free weekly Fitness & Health newsletter.