Researchers Discover New Mechanism Linking Diet And Cancer Risk

Authored by Jennifer Sweenie via The Epoch Times

You may have heard that sugar feeds cancer cells, and evidence supports that. However, the missing link in this narrative has been a thorough understanding of just “how” sugar feeds cancer—until now. A recent study published in Cell in April 2024 uncovers a new mechanism linking uncontrolled blood sugar and poor diet with cancer risk.

The research, performed at the National University of Singapore, Cancer Science Institute of Singapore, and led by professor Ashok Venkitaraman and Dr. Li Ren Kong, found a chemical released when the body breaks down sugar also suppresses a gene expression that prevents the formation of tumors.

This discovery provides valuable insights into how one’s dietary habits can impact their risk of developing cancer and forges a clear path to understanding how to reverse that risk with food choices.

Methylglyoxal–A Temporary Off-Switch

It was previously believed that cancer-preventing genes must be permanently deactivated before malignant tumors can form. However, this recent discovery suggests that a chemical, methylglyoxal (MGO), released whenever the body breaks down glucose, can temporarily switch off cancer-protecting mechanisms.

Dr. Kong, first author of the study, told sources in an email, “It has been shown that diabetic and obese individuals have a higher risk of cancer, posing as a significant societal risk. Yet, the exact cause remains debatable.” He continues, “Our study now unearthed a clue which may explain the connection between cancer risk and diet, as well as common diseases like diabetes, which arise from poor diets.”

Dr. Kong continues, “We found that an endogenously synthesised metabolite can cause faults in our DNA that are early warning signs of cancer development, by inhibiting a cancer-preventing gene (known as the BRCA2).”

BRCA2 is a gene that repairs DNA and helps make a protein that suppresses tumour growth and cancer cell proliferation. A BRCA2 gene mutation is associated primarily with a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers, as well as other cancers. Those with a faulty copy of the BRCA2 gene are particularly susceptible to DNA damage from MGO.

However, the study showed that those without a predisposition to cancer also face an increased risk of developing the disease from elevated MGO levels. The study found that chronically elevated levels of blood sugar can result in a compounded increase in cancer risk.

Per Dr. Kong, “This study showcases the impact of methylglyoxal in inhibiting the function of tumour suppressor, such as BRCA2, suggesting that repeated episodes of poor diet or uncontrolled diabetes can ‘add up’ over time to increase cancer risk.”

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The Epoch Times

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