Do you have a sugar daddy? Well, I know that I did. Sugar daddies, life savers and jelly beans – I used to sleep with all of them! In all seriousness, until a few years ago, I was a full blown sugar addict like millions of other Americans. To tell you the truth, I still am. I have only recently learned how to kick my bad habit after educating myself about the dangers of sugar and the cause of my cravings. I knew that sugar caused diabetes, but had no idea until after I started studying nutrition, that sugar contributes to cancer, and breast cancer in particular.
The average American consumes 130-145 pounds of sugar a year! Think about it – that’s a significant part of your body weight in sugar! When I say sugar, I’m not just talking about cookies, candy and cakes. Sugar is actually a bigger part of your diet than you may realize. It’s often hidden in foods such as ketchup, salad dressing, bread, baby food and peanut butter. It is also critical to understand that simple carbohydrates such as white bread, pastries, pasta, rice, etc. convert to sugar very quickly and much faster than complex carbohydrates (brown rice, fruits, vegetables and legumes), proteins and fats.
“When it comes to cancer, sugar is like gasoline to your car – it’s fuel.” When we eat or drink sugar, it causes a sudden spike in the hormone insulin, which can serve as a catalyst to fuel 1/3 of the more common forms of cancer including breast and colon cancer. These cancer tumors have insulin receptors on their surface. The insulin binds to these receptors and signals the tumor to start consuming glucose. Every cell in your body needs glucose to survive, but these cancer tumors use it to grow.
Obesity is also a major risk factor for breast cancer as a number of large studies have confirmed this association, including the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition which reported that obese women have a 31% increased risk of developing breast cancer than non-obese women. Obese women, especially those with estrogen receptor positive tumors, have a greater risk of the cancer spreading to their lymph nodes.
Sugar contributes to obesity given its addictive nature. Have you ever found yourself only wanting to eat one cookie or one piece of candy, but then reaching for another and yet another? Does the same thing happen to you when you’re eating your broccoli? I think not. That is because of sugar’s highly addictive nature. It is actually eight times as addictive as cocaine and activates the brain the same way that cocaine does. As we eat sweet foods, dopamine, a chemical that controls the brain’s pleasure center is released. People who frequently eat sweet foods build up a tolerance similar to that of drug users. That means the more they eat, the less they feel the reward. The result is that they eat more and this is one of the ways that sugar contributes to obesity.
It is now pretty clear that reducing our consumption of sugar reduces our risk of breast cancer and can increase our chances of survival for those of us who already have breast cancer, but how do we actually accomplish this? The first thing that I suggest is learning some of the names of different forms of sugar. Sucrose and anything ending in “ose” is another name for sugar. High fructose corn syrup (this should be avoided altogether if possible for many reasons and will be the topic of another blog post), evaporated cane juice and rice syrup are just some of the other names for sugar. I urge you to do an internet search for the many other names for sugar. Once you identify them, I advise that you start reading labels so that you can avoid the sugars that are hidden in unsuspecting foods, even in the so called “healthy” ones, like Naked Juices. The average 16oz bottle of Naked Juice contains the equivalent of over 13 teaspoons of sugar! And don’t be fooled by the label “no added sugars.” Foods and drinks with this label often have a lot of sugar, so make sure to read the nutrition label carefully.
Increasing your water intake and adding naturally sweet foods to your diet are also great techniques for reducing your sugar cravings. Most people have cravings because they’re dehydrated. The next time you’re feeling like something sweet, try drinking a glass of water and waiting a few minutes to see whether you still have that craving. A great way to curb your sugar cravings is to slowly add naturally sweet foods to your diet. I added sweet root vegetables such as beets, sweet potatoes and sweet peppers to my diet. I also get my sugar from a moderate amount of fruit every day.
I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with having something sweet every now and then, you just have to make sure that you don’t become addicted to sugar. I’ve found that eating some dark chocolate, which is filled with antioxidants, satisfies my sweet tooth these days and make sure to indulge in it every now and again.
So there you have it. Sugar is very detrimental to our health and causes obesity, diabetes and is linked to breast cancer, but you can easily learn to manage your sugar daddies by adopting the simple techniques outlined above. Good luck and stay naturally sweet!
– AmiCietta D. Clarke, Certified Holistic Health Coach & Founder of Clean Body Living, LLC
 Edward Bauman and Helayne Waldman. The Whole-Food Guide for Breast Cancer Survivors: A Nutritional Approach to Preventing Recurrence (California: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2012), 81.
 Bauman and Waldman, Whole Food Guide, 84.