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Does removing sugar from your diet starve cancer cells? New study finds surprising answers

Cutting back on sugar may help decrease your likelihood of getting certain cancers, a recent study noted. The finding, which was part of an investigation made by researchers from Duke-NUS Medical School and the National University of Singapore, together with the Duke University School of Medicine and the Medical University of Vienna, is part of a unique approach explaining how reducing sugar can cause cancer cells to die.

The paper, which was published in the online journal Science Signaling, presented a novel cell death pathway through introducing how depriving cancer cells of sugar can trigger a reaction that causes them to die. This research builds on earlier scientific literature that indicates that cancer cells that quickly multiply need higher levels of sugar than healthy cells. (Related: More Evidence that Sugar Fuels Cancer Growth.)

In the study, researchers found that in specific cancer cells, the presence of low levels of sugar that are insufficient for providing energy may be used as a method to enhance the survivability of the cells. They then posited that this might be another effect that sugar has on cancer cells.

They also found that when cancer cells are deprived of sugar, this causes a reaction across the cancer cell membrane and leads to an increased intake of calcium ions into the cells, which causes them to die ultimately. For the study, they used two cancer cells: one that contained extra glucose and the other, which didn’t. Both samples were then exposed to a “two-pronged attack.” The first one was with STF-31, a compound that inhibits glucose transport into cells, and the second one was with thapsigargin, which increases the level of calcium in cells. The team found out the cancer cells that had that extra glucose in them were unaffected; however, those with limited reserves were killed off.

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