Sugar is often viewed as a diet villain, but it may harm more than your waistline. It can negatively affect your workout, mess with your skin, and cause annoying energy crashes. If you’re already cutting back on sugar in your diet, then you may be interested in this extra motivation to keep away from it. A recent study from Nature Communications shows sugar may encourage cell growth in cancer.

How Cancer Cells Use Sugar

All the cells in your body need energy to survive, and sugar provides a quick and easy source of energy. Cancer cells also need sugar, but they tend to use a lot more of it than your normal cells. In addition, cancer cells ferment that sugar into lactic acid at a faster rate. This process is called the Warburg effect.

Researchers spent nine years looking at how cancerous yeast cells handle sugar. They found that cancer can feed on sugar, and it appears to encourage cell growth. “Our research reveals how the hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth,” said Johan Thevelein. Nevertheless, researchers caution that this doesn’t necessarily mean that sugar causes cancer. For now, all they can determine is that cancer cells can use sugar to grow rapidly.

It’s hard to eliminate every source of sugar in your diet. It’s also not possible to starve cancer cells by denying them sugar without affecting the rest of the cells in your body. Instead, focus on eating a healthy diet that limits processed foods and refined sugars. As always, talk to your doctor about making other diet changes that can reduce sugar.

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