Scientists are Using Sugar in Your Body to Spot Cancer Cells & What it Means for Future Treatments


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Written by: Angelique Johnson

Got a sweet tooth?

If you do, you may be putting yourself more at risk for cancer.

A new study published in the journal Nature Medicine found that processed sugar is the main driving force behind the growth and spread of cancer tumors.

In fact, because of this new information, the future of cancer screening may rely solely on scanning the body for the accumulation of sugar.

Researchers from the University College London (UCL) in the U.K. made the discovery after experimenting with an exclusive form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in hopes of developing a new cancer screening method.

After they sensitized the MRI scanner to look specifically for glucose in the body, the cancer cells – which feed off sugar – lit up brightly, as they contained high levels of sugar.

A recent UCL announcement noted that the tumors appear as “bright images” on the MRI scans.

“The new technique, called ‘glucose chemical exchange saturation transfer’ (glucoCEST), is based on the fact that tumors consume much more glucose (a type of sugar) than normal, healthy tissues in order to sustain their growth.”

Cancer is normally screened by using low-doses of radiation injections. These injections are also known to be a cause of cancer, making it a counterproductive choice due to its potential harmful side effects.

However, the radiation injections work because doctors are able to detect cancer by using things that cause cancer to grow and spread.

Sugar is now one of those things.

“The method uses an injection of normal sugar and could offer a cheap, safe alternative to existing methods for detecting tumors, which require the injection of radioactive material,” says Dr. Simon Walker-Samuel, lead author of the study from the UCL Center for Advanced Biomedical Imaging (CABI).

Professor Mark Lythgoe, Director of CABI and a senior author on the study was shocked to discover that the amount of sugar that the glucoCEST method needed in order to positively identify the presence of tumors could be found in “half a standard chocolate bar.”

This discovery shows that even a small amount of sugar has the potential to promote cancer growth.

One of the reasons processed sugars are so toxic for the body is that certain hormones are produced by the body in reaction to sugar intake. These hormones also feed the cancer cells.

This means that, every time you eat that sugary candy bar or guzzle down a soda or other sugary drink, you are giving your body the kick start it needs to release chemicals that cause cancer cells to eat the sugar and therefore grow and multiply.

Processed sugar is like fertilizer for cancer.

So, how much sugar is safe to eat? According to the American Heart Association, women should have no more than six teaspoons of sugar per day (25 grams) and men should have no more than nine teaspoons per day (37 grams).

Most Americans consume twice that much sugar in a day. That’s approximately 22 teaspoons per day, which adds up to 130 lbs. of sugar every year!

Sweets and soda are not the only culprits. Pasta sauces, salad dressings, canned and processed foods and even non-fat fruit yogurts have hidden sugars.

Sugar can often be hiding in foods under different names. Make sure to check the ingredients on the food label to make sure none of these words are present:

  • Fructose (natural sugar from fruits)
  • Lactose (natural sugar from milk)
  • Sucrose (made from fructose and glucose)
  • Maltose (sugar made from grain)
  • Glucose (simple sugar)
  • Dextrose (a form of glucose)
  • Corn syrup
  • High-fructose corn syrup


Sugar, when eaten in small amounts, can fit into a balanced diet. Make sure that your sources of sugar come more from naturally sweet fruits and vegetables instead of highly processed foods. That way, you’ll be satisfying your sweet tooth and providing your body with cancer fighting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Do you have a healthy tip to kick your sweet tooth to the curb? Share it in the comments below.

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Angelique Johnson

Angelique Johnson

Nutritionist at Nutrition by Angelique
Angelique Johnson is a nutritionist from Miami, FL. Through her own journey in weight loss, she discovered her love for health and nutrition and realized she wanted to help others achieve a healthier lifestyle. Angelique has been featured as a nutrition consult on CBS4 Miami News and is a published author on many online health sites. She is passionate about debunking diet rumors and showing her clients how to have a healthy, balanced relationship with food.
Angelique Johnson


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