Colon cancer: Dr Zoe outlines the symptoms to look out for
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It is becoming increasingly evident that poor dietary factors are key to the development of cancer. In fact, growing obesity rates are at the centre of cancer concerns, because it triggers a rise in insulin and other growth factors. This in turn causes cells to divide more. In one recent study, researchers have uncovered one food that could increase the risk of both obesity and cancer.
The 2021 study, published in the medical journal Nature, revealed the damaging effect of high-fructose corn syrup on the cells in the intestines.
National Cancer Institute cited the body of research, suggesting that excess consumption of fructose could promote cancer.
Researchers found the sweetener increased the lifespan of cancer cells in the intestines, which led to the formation of larger tumours and anaemia – a prevalent complication related to tumours.
The researchers noted: “The ability of fructose to promote cell survival […] provides insights into the excess adiposity generated by a Western diet, and a compelling explanation for the promotion of tumour growth by high-fructose corn syrup.”
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The study, conducted in mice, focussed specifically on excess consumption of fructose, which is found in high-fructose corn syrup.
It will be followed by a human study to see whether the results are consistent in people.
Kristine Willis, of theNational Cancer Institutes Division of Cancer Biology, who was not involved in the study, commented: “This mouse study is really important because it established a molecular mechanism for why fructose can drive tumour growth.”
To examine the cellular activity in the intestinal cells of the rodents, researchers focussed on the villi, which lines the intestines.
The small fingerlike projections increase the surface area of the membrane, enabling greater nutrient absorption after food intake.
The team observed that intake of high fructose corn syrup triggered growth in the length of the villi.
In fact, mice who eat the sweetener had villi that were around 25 to 40 percent longer than those who weren’t.
Further investigation revealed that excess consumption of the sweetener kept the cells at the tips of the villi alive longer.
It was hypothesised that this lengthening of the villi could lead to increased fat absorption, which could lead to subsequent weight gain.
The findings echo those of a previous 2019 study which found that feeding high-fructose corn syrup to cancer-prone rodents increase both the size and aggressiveness of colorectal tumours.
Until now, the reason for this increase in cancer growth was left undetermined.
The earlier study had suggested that fructose promoted tumour growth in mice that were predisposed to colorectal cancer.
The lead author of the study noted: “Fructose is nearly ubiquitous in modern diets, whether it comes from high-fructose corn syrup, table sugar, or from natural foods like fruit.
“Fructose itself is not harmful. It’s a problem of overconsumption. Our bodies were not designed to eat as much of it as we do.”
Colorectal cancer is one of the most common forms of the disease worldwide, at around three or four per 100 people.
Symptoms of the disease can include a change in bowel habits, including diarrhoea, constipation or a narrowing of stool.
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