Sugar could be fuelling cancer by speeding up the growth of tumours in the body, according to a new study.
Scientists at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, found that mice consuming high-fructose corn syrup, used in biscuits, ice cream and energy drinks, saw intestinal tumours grow faster.
The amount was said to be the equivalent of people drinking about 12 ounces of a sugary drink a day.
Dr Lewis Cantley, a co-author of the study from Weill Cornell Medicine, said: ‘This observation in animal models might explain why increased consumption of sweet drinks and other foods with high sugar content over the past 30 years is correlating with an increase in colorectal cancers in 25 to 50-year-olds in the United States.’
An understanding of how sugar feeds cancer may also lead to a new approach to treatment, the study’s scientists suggested.
However, some experts have warned that the mechanism had been demonstrated in mice genetically engineered to be prone to cancer, and may not translate into humans.
Michael Skilton from the University of Sydney, who was not involved in the study, told The Times that he was impressed by the research but warned that the findings could not readily be applied to humans.
He said: ‘Irrespective of whether these sweeteners are having a direct effect on tumour development and growth, people wising to reduce their likelihood of developing cancer should limit their intake.’
Lead author Dr. Marcus D. Goncalves said: ‘We were not able to show that giving high-fructose corn syrup causes new tumours because these mice develop tumours even on normal diets free of added sugar.
‘But when you give them this additional sugar, the tumours grow much bigger,’ he added.
The study was published March 22 in the print issue of Science.