Wednesday’s Ask Dr. Walt — Is Sugar Really Poisonous?

Dear Dr. Walt,

I’ve see a lot of claims on Facebook posts about the dangers of sugar, claiming that it’s more addictive than cocaine, it’s poison, it feeds cancer, etc.  While I know too much sugar is bad for your health, these claims seem a bit over the top. Are they? 

—Sweet Tooth in Georgia 

Dear Honey,

Yup, in short, claims that sugar causes cancer or causes cancer cells to grow more quickly is simply not supported by scientific studies. Mayo Clinic makes it simple: “Sugar doesn’t make cancer grow faster.”

Sugar critics may be exaggerating the fact that there is some evidence that consuming large amounts of sugar is associated with an increased risk of certain types of cancer, including esophageal cancer. But, there is no definitive cause-and-effect relationship. Now, it is true that excess sweets or calories can lead to weight gain and increase the risk of obesity and diabetes, and both of these disorders can increase the risk of cancer.

Is there any truth to the claims that sugar is addictive or is a poison? Nope. In my opinion these worries are also exaggerated. Most sugar critics, when they talk about sugar as being dangerous, are really singling out fructose, particularly high-fructose corn syrup as the rotten apple of the sugar family. If you’re interested in the details of the pro and con arguments from a scientific perspective, there’s a great review in Scientific American(goo.gl/gBSFvu) which concludes that even if these exaggerated claims about sugar or fructose are wrong, the critics “most fundamental directive is sound: eat less sugar. Why? Because super sugary, energy-dense foods with little nutritional value are one of the main ways we consume more calories than we need, albeit not the only way. It might be hard to swallow, but the fact is that many of our favorite desserts, snacks, cereals and especially our beloved sweet beverages inundate the body with far more sugar than it can efficiently metabolize.“

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2018. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.
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