"All sugars are the same," a phrase that has been used repeatedly by the American Beverage Association and other food companies. But it turns out that the human body uses fructose differently from glucose.
reports that pancreatic tumor cells actually use fructose to divide and increase. Pancreatic cancer is considered one of the deadliest. A research team at the University of California, Los Angeles say their findings, published in the journal, Cancer Research
, can now help explain other studies that have linked that form of cancer with fructose intake. Dr. Anthony Heaney of UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center and colleagues said
"These findings show that cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation. They have major significance for cancer patients given dietary refined fructose consumption, and indicate that efforts to reduce refined fructose intake or inhibit fructose-mediated actions may disrupt cancer growth."
North America takes in huge amounts of fructose, in soft drinks, bread, frozen foods and sweets. The kind used in food is a mixture of fructose and glucose.
A debate has been raging over whether high fructose corn syrup and other ingredients have been leading to a fatter, less healthy population. Politicians, regulators, health experts and the industry Itself have been attacking and defending it. But the American Heart Association points out that too much sugar of any kind not only adds weight, but is also a big trigger for diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Several U.S. states, including New York and California, are considering putting a tax on sweetened soft drinks to defray the cost of treating obesity-related diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. But the American Beverage Association, whose members include Coca-Cola and Kraft Foods have strongly, and successfully, opposed efforts to do that. The industry has also said repeatedly that sugar is sugar.
Heaney says their study shows this is completely false. He says tumor cells thrive on white sugar, but it is the fructose that they use to proliferate.
"Importantly, fructose and glucose metabolism are quite different." I think this paper has a lot of public health implications. Hopefully, at the federal level there will be some effort to step back on the amount of high fructose corn syrup in our diets."
The research team is now focused on developing a drug that might stop tumor cells from making use of fructose.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported in 2004 that U.S. consumption of high fructose corn syrup went up 1,000 percent between 1970 and 1990.