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A Cure for Cancer? Part II

I received a large number of emails this week asking if avoiding sugar would prevent or cure cancer. This was generated by last week's eZine article about cancer cells needing sugar to survive because they have defective mitochondria.

You cannot prevent or cure cancer just by avoiding sugar. All carbohydrates are made up of chains of sugars, and the only known way to deprive your body of sugar is to starve yourself to death. Sugar will always be available. The researchers' goal is to prevent sugar from entering cancer cells.

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF CANCER CELLS WERE UNABLE TO OBTAIN SUGAR? A possible cure for cancer was presented this month by Philipp Mergenthaler and Andreas Meisel, of Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany, and McMaster University, Canada. They showed that depriving a cell of the sugar, glucose, while giving it plenty of oxygen at the same time, blocks glycolysis and therefore forces the cell to revive its mitochondria and use the Krebs Cycle for energy. Reviving the mitochondria also revives apoptosis, the process of programmed cell death, and therefore would stop cancer cells from growing and spreading through the body (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, January 2012).

This breakthrough research studied what happens to nerve cells when they are deprived of sugar. The brain has no way to store energy. It gets almost all of its energy from sugar in the bloodstream. When a person has a stroke, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and sugar because of blocked blood flow. The brain cells respond to a stroke by producing an enzyme called hexokinase II, which helps protect nerve cells from dying by driving any available sugar into cells. Hexokinase II is produced in large amounts when brain cells are deprived of sugar.

• The Krebs Cycle: a series of chemical reactions to produce energy from sugar, fats or proteins in the mitochondria; requires oxygen
• Glycolysis: breaking down sugar in cells outside the mitochondria; does not require oxygen

Normal cells have a programmed cell death called APOPTOSIS, which means that cells divide so many times and then they die. CANCER CELLS ARE DIFFERENT because they do not have apoptosis and try to live forever. They kill by invading other tissues. For example breast cancer cells can invade your brain cells, and kill you by destroying your brain. Cancer cells lack apoptosis because they have defective mitochondria, so they are forced to use glycolysis for energy.

GLYCOLYSIS REQUIRES SUGAR AND THE KREBS CYCLE REQUIRES OXYGEN. Blocking hexokinase II, the enzyme that drives sugar into cells, prevents sugar from entering cells and being used for energy by glycolysis. Also giving the cells plenty of oxygen encourages the Krebs Cycle and revives mitochondria. This combination of blocking glycolysis (a cell's ability to use sugar for energy) and forcing the cells to use the Kreb's cycle (needs oxygen) revives the inactive mitochondria of cancer cells. Reviving the mitochondria should revive apoptosis and cause cancer cells specifically to die, without killing normal cells.

Thus cancer should be cured by depriving cancer cells of sugar while providing them with oxygen, which should revive their mitochondria and regain their ability to use the Krebs Cycle. Now that the mechanism is understood, researchers will work to find ways to target cancer cells, or to prevent the abnormal cell changes from occurring in the first place.

Meanwhile, realize that anything that raises blood sugar levels INCREASES YOUR RISK FOR CANCER: being overweight, not exercising, being diabetic, eating sugar or refined carbohydrates when you are not exercising, lack of vitamin D, not having enough muscle, eating read meat, storing fat in your belly, not eating enough fruits and vegetables, and so forth. Also, at this time, EXERCISE is the best way we have to increase the number and efficiency of mitochondria in cells.

References: P. Mergenthaler, A. Kahl, A. Kamitz, V. van Laak, K. Stohlmann, S. Thomsen, H. Klawitter, I. Przesdzing, L. Neeb, D. Freyer, J. Priller, T. J. Collins, D. Megow, U. Dirnagl, D. W. Andrews, A. Meisel. Mitochondrial hexokinase II (HKII) and phosphoprotein enriched in astrocytes (PEA15) form a molecular switch governing cellular fate depending on the metabolic state. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, January 2012.

WHAT ARE MITOCHONDRIA? In the 1970s, Lynn Margulis proposed that mitochondria were originally bacteria that invaded living cells billions of years ago and set up a symbiotic relationship. The bacteria could supply the most efficient source of energy for cells, and the cells would give these bacteria a place to live and multiply. We know this because mitochondria have genetic material, DNA, which is similar to that of bacteria and is much different from the DNA of other parts of cells in the human body. Trends Microbiol. 2011 Feb;19(2):58-64.


Reports from

Blue-green algae


More Evidence That Taking Sugared Drinks When You Are Not Exercising Is Harmful

Men and women were asked to drink one liter per day of water, milk, diet cola or regular cola for six months. The cola drinkers added 25 percent more fat around their belly organs, and doubled the fat in the liver and muscles (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published online December 28, 2011). Storing fat in these places increases risk for diabetes, heart attacks and premature death. The cola drinkers did not gain more weight than those who took the other drinks.

Most people who STORE FAT PRIMARILY IN THE BELLY have high insulin levels and are already pre-diabetic or diabetic. Before insulin can do its job of driving sugar from the bloodstream into cells, it must first attach to hooks called insulin receptors on the outer surface of cell membranes. When insulin cannot attach on these receptors, blood sugar levels rise too high. This causes the pancreas to release increasingly higher amounts of insulin. High levels of insulin specifically cause fat to be stored in the belly and around belly organs. Most cases of Type II diabetes are caused by the inability of insulin to attach to these insulin receptors. This prevents insulin from lowering blood sugar levels. High levels of insulin also constrict arteries leading to the heart, to cause heart attacks.

HOW A HIGH RISE IN BLOOD SUGAR CAUSES FAT TO BE STORED IN THE BELLY: When blood sugar levels rise too high, the pancreas releases huge amounts of insulin. Insulin converts sugar to a type of fat called triglyceride. In fact, high blood triglyceride usually means that your blood sugar is too high and that you are already diabetic or pre-diabetic. Then the fat is deposited into your liver to damage it. This is called a fatty liver.

TAKING SUGARED DRINKS WHEN YOU EXERCISE VIGOROUSLY IS USUALLY NOT HARMFUL. Resting muscles are unable to draw sugar into their cells without insulin, so sugared drinks cause a high rise in blood sugar when you are not exercising. However, contracting muscles can take sugar into their cells without insulin, which prevents a high rise in blood sugar levels. The more vigorously you exercise, the more effectively muscles can take sugar into their cells without insulin.



In 1812, Napoleon attacked Russia with his Grande Armee of 453,000 men. Fewer than 10,000 soldiers returned to France with him. The majority of his soldiers died of gunshot wounds from their fellow soldiers and hypothermia, low body temperature that paralyzes the arms and legs and then the heart. Napoleon expected to arrive in Moscow and spend the winter in the rich palaces of the Czar and his cronies. When he arrived, he found a city that had been burned to the ground. He had no place to stay, so he withdraw from Moscow, and ordered his army to march all the way back to France.

Many of his soldiers were so cold that they would sit down on the snow and suffer hypothermia, a drop in body temperature that paralyzes their arms and legs, so they were unable to raise themselves from the ground. Napoleon gave orders to his men to shoot any soldier who did not keep up with the marching army.

Hypothermia should never happen to you. Your body sends you plenty of warning signals as your temperature starts to drop:

• A one-degree drop in temperature causes your speech to become slurred. This, in itself, is not dangerous, and occurs when people stay out in temperatures below 35 degrees, but it serves as a warning that you are losing more heat than your body is producing. To protect yourself, you can produce more heat by exercising harder or you can conserve heat by bundling your clothes tighter.

• A drop of three degrees prevents you from coordinating your fingers and moving your hands. Seek shelter immediately.

• A drop of five degrees prevents you from controlling your legs. You won't be able to walk and you'll stumble and fall and not be able to get up off the ground. Then you may not be able to get out of the cold and your body temperature can continue to drop rapidly. If your clothes are wet, your temperature will drop even faster.

• A drop of 13 degrees (85 F) will cause you to pass out and stop your heart from beating. You will be unconscious and will die unless someone helps you.

If you plan to be outdoors in cold weather, learn how to dress properly and exercise intensely. More than 80 percent of the energy you use to power your muscles is lost as heat. The harder you exercise, the more heat your body generates.


Recipe of the Week:

Zippy Black Bean Dip

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE


January 22nd, 2012
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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