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The role of IGF-1, GLUT3 and sugar in cancer

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

Research shows us that adequate nutrition is very important in prevention, treatment and management of cancer and other chronic disease.

Inadequate or improper or nutrition has an impact on cancer.

It can:

  • contribute to genome instability and mutation

  • promote tumour inflammation

  • can dysregulate mitochondrial function in cells

  • promote immune dysfunction

Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) can promote tumour growth by responding to carbohydrate consumption. Cancer cells love sugar. Sugar increases insulin and helps stimulate cancer cell proliferation via insulin resistance.

IGF-1 can also promote mTOR signalling, which promotes inflammation and even further resistance to cancer-based therapies such as chemotherapy.

GLUT3 is a receptor found on cells. Carbohydrate intake can upregulate the presence of these receptors on healthy and unhealthy cells, whilst driving cell signalling to increase insulin and promoting cancer growth and metabolism. Diabetes and obesity are a risk for this upregulation of GLUT3 receptors, and therefore, these conditions increase our risk for cancer!

The basic concept: carbohydrates can promote insulin resistance and fuel cancer cell growth.

A basic framework for dietary guidelines includes a diet heavy in vegetables (especially leafy greens), moderate in fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and low in red meat and simple carbohydrates. Your Naturopathic Doctor can give you individualized information on diet recommendations based on lab work, pathology reports, staging and overall risk.

Ask your Naturopathic Doctor trained in Integrative Cancer Therapy for more information on appropriate dietary modifications for a specific type and staging of cancer.


Dr. Mawji

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