Does sugar cause or feed cancer?

As those of you who have been following know, the aim and point of this sugar free and booze free year is to raise money for and awareness of a rare cancer causing genetic disorder:- Cowden Syndrome. My daughter has it and it caused her to develop cancer at ten. The ripple effect on the family is still being felt particularly by one of her brothers who developed coping mechanisms that now are making him very unwell.

Last year I focused on exercise, this year the focus is on giving up. Specifically giving up two common substances that can increase in their own way the risk of cancer. Alcohol and sugar. Today’s post is about sugar.

I did a quick calculation last night and my average total daily sugars for the last 3 weeks have been 52g per day. Before this I was hitting 65 to 70 a day so a not insignificant drop.

Of course all of the sugar I’m now getting is part of a fruit, vegetable or other whole food rather than being removed and granulated.

What’s shocking to think is that one single can of coke contains 35g just one.

A can of monster energy contains 55g that’s the total amount of sugar I’ve been getting every day in one single drink.

Now I do not believe that sugar either directly causes cancer or feeds cancer specifically. Glucose however feeds every cell in the body and fast dividing cells demand the most energy. Hence the belief that “sugar feeds cancer” and a sugar free diet starves it. Sadly not that simple.

But it is an irrefutable fact that a high sugar diet is a cause of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, non alcoholic fatty liver disease as well as playing a large part in obesity.

That is the link to cancer, a high sugar diet is a causative factor in diabetes and obesity. Looking at diabetes first, diabetes as well as being itself highly debilitating increases the risk of a number of cancers

“Studies have shown that diabetes carries an increased risk for a number of different forms of cancer.

Having cancer with diabetes can make achieving good diabetes control much more difficult but this can be relieved to some extent.
How is type 2 diabetes linked with cancer?

One theory for why a link may exist is that high levels of circulating insulin (known as hyperinsulinemia) can promote the growth of tumours.

In type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance commonly causes the body to produce more insulin than normal.

Another reason why a link may be present is where a harmful lifestyle may lead to obesity and therefore higher risks of both type 2 diabetes and cancer.
Cancer and type 2 diabetes

The risks of contracting the following cancers are shown to be doubled by the presence of type 2 diabetes:

Pancreatic cancer
Liver cancer
Endometrial cancer (also known as womb cancer)

A smaller increased risk, of 20% to 50% is seen for the following forms of cancer.

Colorectal cancer
Bladder cancer
Breast cancer
Blood cancers (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma)

The one positive is that incidences of prostate cancer are actually lower for people with type 2 diabetes.”

https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-complications/diabetes-and-cancer.html

And obesity, a high sugar diet is often a causative factor in obesity which is in turn is linked with increasing risks for numerous cancers.

“Does obesity cause cancer?

Yes, overweight and obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK- more than 1 in 20 cancer cases are caused by excess weight

The risk is higher the more weight a person gains and the longer they are overweight for

The good news is small changes that are kept up over time can make a real difference”

https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/obesity-weight-and-cancer/does-obesity-cause-cancer#Obesity0

Now of course there are other factors, there always are and you can do everything “right” and still have something awful happen. Let’s be honest you don’t need to tell my family that, my daughter developed cancer at 10 just because her genes are bollocksed. But the link to serious health issues and refined sugar, particularly in excess are clearly there and let’s be honest it’s hard to not have sugar in excess nowadays, especially growing up in a world where one energy drink contains twice the total recommended added sugars given by WHO guidelines.

“WHO calls on countries to reduce sugars intake among adults and children

Press release

4 March 2015 ¦ Geneva – A new WHO guideline recommends adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake. A further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.”

Full details on recommendations below.

https://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/guidelines/sugars_intake/en/

Without sounding evangelical, 3 weeks in and in the middle of a really traumatic time in my life I’m living without added sugars and my total sugars are a respectable level even with lots of fruit. It’s not actually as difficult as it’s made out to be, pretty much involves a little more cooking and carrying nuts!

We particularly need to stop our kids thinking that growing up saturated in sugar is in anyway normal.

Days 19, 20 & 21 – hospital stuff

Today’s day 21 which marks the end of the first 3 weeks of this challenge. As I said before I’m not sure if I’m feeling any actual benefit with all the stress going on, but then that’s not the point of it anyway. The point is to raise awareness of Cowden Syndrome and money towards research.

This morning Charlotte had an appointment at the breast clinic, she with Cowden Syndrome has an 85% lifetime risk of breast cancer, with the risk getting higher as she gets older. Her oncologist found a couple of new lumps in her breast and sent her to be checked. It is also quite common for teenagers with Cowden Syndrome to have fibroids in their breasts. So it’s most likely nothing serious but I will worry like crazy until we get results back. I always do. My daughter was incredibly brave as always, by the time they had taken 5 core biopsies from 2 lumps I was shaking inside and fighting to stop it from showing on the outside.

I hate that she has to go through this. I had one of those moments today where I realised how use we have become to the abnormal. I said to the nurses attending to my daughter that she and I were looking forward to when she was old enough to have a double mastectomy. She looked horrified, she looked like she could cry. But it’s true. To her her breasts are just a source of worry.

My son has been found somewhere to live away from where we are. Everything I have read on addiction and breaking the cycle says the person has the best chance if they are away from the places and people they associate with their addiction. I hope it works. Of course he could go looking for a new dealer at his new location. If that’s the case there’s very little anyone can do. I wonder if any of this would have happened if my daughter hadn’t had cancer, or did this all start when I was up and down to hospitals.

I find the reality of him actually moving out heartbreaking, for all the difficulties my family has faced we have always been close. We’ve always had each other, now one of us will be missing.

Today has been one of those days where the knawing hole inside my chest feels like it’s becoming so big I will simply disappear inside it.

As it was a hospital day it was mostly eating out. I don’t actually find eating sugar free out of the house that desperately difficult. A snack at Costa was fruit, lunch at pret a protein box without the sauce and at the cinema black coffee and nuts. Eating out sugar free really is keep it simple and not have the dressing. Coffee wise either black or skip the chocolate in a cappuccino and have cinamon, it’s genuinely lovely.

My daughter and I had a pleasant spot in the day when we went to the new Everyman cinema in Newcastle which really is beautiful. Sofas and tables plus being allowed to take an actual ceramic cup and saucer into the cinema! Oh the civility

Total sugars today and the past few days as I hadn’t blogged since Tuesday

Finally a toe update, yup it’s broken which is seriously annoying especially as the gym is my sanity. I found some two sizes too big shoes in Primark for my swollen fat foot though that should allow me to use the bike erg which is something!

Day 9 – Father’s day pie, struggling with life stuff. Charlotte and POTs

Father’s Day, which 2/3 of our children basically forgot. The one with a job hastily threw money at the problem… literally. The one without went for the time old classic “it’s lost in the post” oh his great great great great grandfather would be proud. Apparently the old ones are the good uns including with excuses. He then turned it round to he would be able to prove this but he couldn’t because evil evil mam had confiscated his phone and he only has access to that email from his phone. Not from a computer. For reasons. Of course. The girl had bought father’s Day stuff probably the day after last year’s father’s Day just in case. She’s going to be one of those folk who finish Xmas shopping in April and wrapping by May.

It’s looking likely that Charlotte throwing up, violently, All day was in fact due to Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. A quick read on the webs and it seems this indeed can be a thing with POTs. We need to see someone about this as she was in a real state. Which left me 80% worried about her and 20% feeling guilty as I had social out out plans that I’d wanted to keep and couldn’t. One of the tough things about being a carer is feeling guilty if you ever feel disappointed. Of course the sick person had it worse and that’s where the guilt comes from but it’s tough not being able to make plans and stick to them. People who haven’t been in the situation or one similar simply don’t understand, they think you’re just unreliable, flaky or making excuses. After a while a lot of people just stop inviting you. Which sucks. But it’s part of living with a chronic illness or caring for someone with a chronic illness. I still wouldn’t change my girl for the world.

Food in words and pictures

Breakfast

Berries, goat yoghurt cacao nibs

Lunch

Shepherd pie – homemade with turkey mince, carrot peas, chicken stock, potatoes, sweet potatoes

Dinner

Home made popcorn with salt, cocoa, made with cocoa powder and unsweetened almond milk

Total sugar

Today’s exercise

A dog walk into Alnwick centre around it and back home. Fun fact where we live has a large castle Alnwick castle and the town use to reside within a wall. The street either is named Bondgate Within and Bondgate Without.

This is the old gate

A little thing on the way home made me happy, these lovely yellow flowers.

Then it was a yoga plus CrossFit session

Day 8 – I slept through the night

Last night I slept through the night for the first time I can remember unmedicated (there have been short periods of time across Charlotte’s cancer journey where I’ve used sleeping pills) No shame about it either). Anyway I have in my mid 40s accepted waking usually a couple of times a night as part of middle age. Kind of have v just have been one of those rare blessed nights allowing me to snooze 10.30 to 6 undisturbed, or could even the relatively low level of refined sugar I was enjoying across the week have been causing an issue. I guess I’ll find out over the next few days, weeks and months.

I took Charlotte to The Mighty Dub fest, a VW festival that takes place in Alnwick. We walked there with Jasper the dog. She was so looking forward to it but within 20 mins and a quick whizz round in a waltzer she had a huge chronic fatigue flare up. I had to wrap her around me and haul her to the road where her dad could pick us up. Of course people thought my teenage daughter was drunk, some shock their heads others even tutted. Of course a teenager can’t be ill or disabled, they must be up to no good. When the truth is my daughter has chronic fatigue syndrome, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and is autistic all of which are linked to her Cowden Syndrome.

Poor kid, she wanted to have a good day our and ended up broken. This is why I’m fundraising for research into Cowden Syndrome. I want a future for her and for kids like her. Without Cowden Syndrome she wouldn’t have had cancer and wouldn’t now how chronic fatigue syndrome or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome

Before we left I did buy a bowler hat though. I suspect I will wear it a lot!

I should be out socialising tonight but she is so poorly right now I couldn’t possibly leave her. It’s tough for both of us, I had plans tonight she had plans tomorrow neither will happen. Such is the way with chronic illnesses.

On a different point I had a couple of interesting finds that will allow me to add flavour to food. A vanilla paste and orange oil, both with neither sugar nor alcohol.

Todays food in pictures and words

Breakfast

Crackers with smoked salmon and cream cheese

Lunch

Fries at the festival followed by a quinoa salad with asparagus, boiled eggs and a date thingy.

Dinner

Parsnip and cauliflower soup with crackers and butter.

Snacks

Banana ice cream made with frozen bananas, frozen fruit and the vanilla pods I acquired..

A smidge of dark chocolate

I really, really wanted a gin tonight, I’m not a big drinker but 2 or 3 singles on a sat night especially when stressed (which I always am when she’s poorly) is lush.

Oh my god the ice cream is amazing. So simple too, 1.5 frozen bananas, 100g frozen berries a splash of almond milk and the vanilla paste (a smidge).

Of course it is quite high natural sugars wise so whether this is better for me than normal ice-cream I have yet to be convinced!

Total sugars

Day 6- dog walk, CrossFit and struggling to eat enough

I slept for 11 hours last night. I think I needed it too. I didn’t really sleep the night before I rarely do the night before Charlotte seeing the oncologist and there are other stresses going on that I can’t talk about here. But boy did I sleep last night! Partly helped by it being the time of year I need to take antihistamines which always make me a little sleepy. Poor Jasper dog though, it was a clear 12 hours since the last time he’d been let out for the loo. I’m amazed he didn’t shoot straight out of the door!

I had a little extra time this morning so made museli, I found earlier in the week that toasting half of the oats makes a huge difference texture wise, sweetness came from finely chopped dates and half an apple each. I love food which isn’t going to change across this year so I’m going to have to put a little extra effort into making sure it’s tasty.

Speaking of which I bought a new cookbook to puruse, The How Not to Die Cookbook. I am not sure I am entirely on board with the full on message of the original book but I certainly know with these kind of books in going to find some decent veg based sugar free meals. I’m quite excited to look at it later.

One of the issues I’m having at the moment is getting enough calories in, especially on training days. I suspect I’ll be eating a whole lot of avocados and peanut butter this year!

Costa for a coffee with a friend was so filled with lovely smells and tempting things. I am going to miss hot chocolate very much this year but a cappuccino with cinnamon was still lovely.

Today’s food in pictures and words

Breakfast

Home made museli, oats, dates, apple, blueberries and unsweetened almond milk.

Lunch

Curried Cauliflower soup

Salmon, salad leaves and a kiwi.

Dinner

2 boiled eggs, salad, pecans, blackberries.

Snacks

Avocado mousse made with an avocado, raspberries and coconut milk.

Skinny cappuccino at Costa with cinnamon on the top rather than chocolate

Today’s exercise

First a dog walk with Jasper, a fairly slow amble along the old Alnwick to Alnmouth railway tracks which are gradually being restored. It’s a lovely walk especially on a rainy day when quiet. Jasper wasn’t too impressed by puddles up to his arm pits though! My Star Lord jacket is awesome at keeping me dry though. Not sure how someone managed to go home without their underwear though!!

Later in the afternoon I practiced Ashtanga standing series to warm up for CrossFit then it was as below. Certainly a lot to get through but it felt really, really good today. You know when you have one of those workouts that just feel amazing. Pretty rare at times but this was one of them.

Don’t forget why I’m doing this and sponsor me please

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sugarfreeyear