Carbohydrates And Cancer: The Fact

In the pre-civilization era, people used meat as their main source of nutrition. They also used green leaves, seeds, fruits, and wild plants for supplement. Their dietary style is now called the “Hunter-gatherer’s Diet” or “Paleolithic Diet.” [1] According to reports, during the era, there were no signs of diseases such as coronary artery disease or cancer, and very little sign of any other diseases.

Since the advent of agriculture, people have increasingly replaced the traditional diet with products of agriculture, such as grains, fruits, vegetables, and others. With the technological advancement that have been applied to agriculture, people have fallen in love with the sweetness of these products, especially sugar, refined grains and grain products, and fruits.

In more recent decades, thanks to the national policies of the US and other countries, which serve to protect their agricultural production, [2] people have consumed more grains and fruits, which are abundant in carbohydrates.

During the same period, nutritional and medical professionals have believed that carbohydrates are the best source of nutrition. They reason that carbohydrates generate only 4 kcal/gram of energy, while fats generate 9 kcal/gram and proteins 4kcal/gram. Based on an individual’s daily energy requirement, carbohydrates can afford the individual to eat a wider variety and a greater amount of foods than if they were eating higher fat foods. [3, 4]

Furthermore, nutritional and medical professionals alike have also believed that fats are the cause for obesity/overweight, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, cancer, and other disorders. They have become ‘lipophobic’. [5, 6, 7] At the same time, they are still unsure of the impact on our health from using more protein for our nutrition. They are somewhat ‘aminophobic’.

A majority of nutritional and medical professionals continue to promote the consumption of carbohydrate, but not of fats and proteins. [8, 9] Also, the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the food pyramid still recommend heavy consumption of carbohydrates. [10, 11, 12]

During the recent decades, we have encountered a rapid rise in number of difficult medical problems, especially overweight/obesity and diabetes mellitus, as well as their complications.

Concurrently, we have witnessed a growing number of cancers. Until recently, fats had been thought responsible for the development of cancers. [13] Now, more evidence shows a link between hyperglycemia and some, if not all, cancers. [14] With better design of research projects, we can expect that this link will become apparent.

Most importantly, we must recognize and bear in mind that excessive carbohydrate intake causes hyperglycemia, diabetes mellitus, and overweight/obesity. [15]

What we have known about glucose and some, if not all, cancers so far is:

1. Cancer heavily utilizes glucose for its rapid growth. [16, 17, 18]

2. Hyperglycemia is inflammatory and pro-inflammatory. [19]

3. Inflammation facilitates the growth and proliferation (metastasis) of cancer. [20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28]

4. Hyperglycemia promotes glycation both inside and outside cells and is implicated in genetic mutation. [29, 30, 31, 32, 33]

5. Cancer facilitates glycolysis that increases non-enzymatic glycation between glucose and proteins. [34]

Applying the behaviors of cancers, we are able

1.  to detect cancers, with radioactive tracer attached to glucose derivatives, e.g. PET Scan tracer attached to FDG, an analog of glucose, 18F-2-fluoro-2-deoxy-d-glucose. After cancer cells take in the glucose analog, which is attached to the tracer, PET Scan can locate the site(s) and measure the size(s) of cancers. [16, 35]

2. to develop carbohydrate-based cancer vaccines. [36]

Can we do something about preventing cancers from happening to us in the first place? While we are still unsure of the real cause(s) for our ordinary cells to become cancer cells, we blame genes, inflammation, biochemical reactions, physical irritation, infections, environmental pollutants, fats, and many others for the initiation of cancer. Until recent years we had never suspected carbohydrates to be a possible cause. However, we do not have to become ‘carbophobic’. We just have to mindfully use carbohydrates.

While hoping more research projects will focus on the relationship between carbohydrates and cancer, several articles already exist that implicate carbohydrates in the development of various cancers.

Robert Su, Pharm.B., M.D.

Wish to invite Dr. Su to speak at your meeting, contact us at


  1. Su RK, “Paleolithic Diets with Dag Viljen Poleszynski, PhD (Ep. 16).“ The Podcast. Carbohydrates Can Kill. September 29, 2010.
  2. Agricultural subsidy.” Wikipedia.
  3. USDA “Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005.” Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  4. USDA “My Pyramid Plan.” MyPyramid.GOV.
  5. American Heart Association “Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations.” Learn and Live. Updated 21, May, 2010.
  6. American Diabetes Association “Food.” Food and Fitness.
  7. American Diabetes Association “ADA Comments on 2010 Dietary Guidelines.” Food Product Design
  8. Ornish Diet.” Everydiet.
  9. Michael Roizen, M.D. & Mehmet Oz, M.D “Our Eat-Smart Diet Plan.” GoodHouseKeeping.
  10. Su RK. “The Dietary Guidelines 2010 Must Do No Harm Or Be Overhauled.” The Blog. Carbohydrates Can Kill. July 7, 2010.
  11. Su RK “Dietary Guidelines are against science (Part 1) with Professors Richard Feinman & Richard Wood (Ep. 18).” The Podcast. Carbohydrates Can Kill. October 13, 2010.
  12. Su RK “Pam Schoenfeld and Adele Hite : The 2010 USDA Food Pyramid Proposal Is Wrong (Ep. 19).” The Podcast. Carbohydrates Can Kill. October 20, 2010.
  13. Chao A. et al “Meat Consumption and Risk of Colorectal Cancer.” Journal of American Medical Association, (JAMA). Volume 293, Number 2, Pages 172-182. January 12, 2005.
  14. Jee SH et al. “Fasting serum glucose level and cancer risk in Korean men and women.” Journal of American Medical Association, (JAMA). Volume 293, Number 2, Pages 194-202. January 12, 2005.
  15. Su RK. “Carbohydrates Can Kill: Hyperglycemia is problematic but preventable by restricting carbohydrates.” The Blog. Carbohydrates Can Kill. August 16, 23, & 30, 2010.
  16. Lindholm P et al. “Influence of the Blood Glucose Concentration on FDG Uptake in Cancer—A PET Study.” The Journal of Nuclear Medicine. 1993;34:1
  17. Stattin P et al. “Prospective Study of Hyperglycemia and Cancer Risk.” Diabetes Care. 30:561–567, 2007
  18. Little SW. “A Study of Cancer.” Boston Medical Surgical Journal. 1914; 170: 163-166.  January 29, 1914. (Original) New England Journal of Medicine.
  19. Su RK. “Blame Hyperglycemia, But Not Hyperinsulinemia For Inflammation.” The Blog. Carbohydrates Can Kill. June 9, 2010.
  20. Whitcomb DC. “Inflammation and Cancer V. Chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.” American Journal of  Physiology – Gastrointestine and Liver Physiology Volume 287, Pages G315-G319. 2004.
  21. Lu H, Ouyang W and Huang C. “Inflammation, a Key Event in Cancer Development.” Molecular Cancer Research. Volume 4, Number 4, Pages 221-233. 2006.
  22. Erlinger TP, Platz EA, Rifai N and Helzlsouer KJ. “C-Reactive Protein and the Risk of Incident Colorectal Cancer.” The Journal of American Medical Association. Volume 291 Number 5, Pages 585-590. February 4, 2004.
  23. Wall RJ, Shyr Y and Smalley W. “Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs and Lung Cancer Risk: A Population-Based Case Control Study.” Journal of Thoracic Oncology. Volume 2, Number 2, Pages 109-114. February 2007.
  24. Khuder SA, Herial NA, Mutgi AB and Federman DJ. “A Metaanalysis. Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drug Use and Lung Cancer.” Chest. Volume 127, Number 3, Pages 748-754. 2005.
  25. Lowenfels AB, et al. “Pancreatitis and the Risk of Pancreatic Cancer.” The New England Journal of Medicine. Volume 328, Number 20, Pages 1433-1437. May 20, 1993.
  26. Risch HA and Howe GR. “Pelvic inflammatory disease and the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer.” Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, Volume 4, Issue 5, Pages 447-451. July/August 1995.
  27. Trichopoulos D, et al. “Plasma C-Reactive Protein and Risk of Cancer A Prospective Study from Greece.” Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Volume 15, Number 2, Pages 381–4. 2006.
  28. Coussens LM and Werb Z. “ Inflammation and cancer.” Nature. Volume 420, Number 6917, Pages 860-7. December 19-26, 2002.
  29. Thornalley PJ. “Protecting the genome: defence against nucleotide glycation and emerging role of glyoxalase I overexpression in multidrug resistance in cancer chemotherapy.” Biochemical Society Transactions. Volume 31, Part 6. 2003.
  30. Klimek A. “ISLET AMYLOID – A Ahmad N, et al. “Glycated and Oxidized Protein Degradation Products Are Indicators of Fasting and Postprandial Hyperglycemia in Diabetes.” Diabetes Care. Volume 28, Number 10. Pages 2465-2471, 2005.
  31. Genuth S, et al. “Glycation and Carboxymethyllysine Levels in Skin Collagen Predict the Risk of Future 10-Year Progression of Diabetic Retinopathy and Nephropathy in the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial and Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications Participants With Type 1 Diabetes.” Diabetes. Volume 54, Number 11, Pages 3103–3111, November 2005.
  32. Bartling B, et al. “Down-regulation of the receptor for advanced glycation end-products (RAGE) supports non-small cell lung carcinoma.” Carcinogenesis. Volume.26, Number 2, Pages 293–301, 2005.
  33. Kuniyasu H, et al. “Co-expression of receptor for advanced glycation end products and the ligand amphoterin associates closely with metastasis of colorectal cancer.” ONCOLOGY REPORTS. Volume 10, Pages 445-448, 2003.
  34. van Heijst JWJ, et al. “Advanced Glycation End Products in Human Cancer Tissues: Detection of N-(Carboxymethyl)lysine and Argpyrimidine.” Annals of New York Academy of. Science. Volume 1043, Number 1, Pages 725–733. 2005.
  35. GE Healthcare “Your Exam, Step by Step.”
  36. Ragupathi G et al. “On the power of chemical synthesis: Immunological evaluation of models for multiantigenic carbohydrate-based cancer vaccines”, The Proceeding of the National Academy of Science. October 15, 2002. Volume. 99, Number 21, Pages 13699-13704.
  • Hans Keer

    Hi Robert, Nice summary post. I have my point of view on how cancer comes into existence and how it can be prevented and (dependent on the phase) cured. It lies very much in line with the thoughts of Richard Feinman and Eugene Fine. I made the next video

    • Robert K. Su MD

      Thank you very much for your comments. If you are interested, please visit “Reading List: Cancer (889-1061)” at

      • Hans Keer

        What I tried to say is that cancer cells are very “clever” and will never have a shortage on sugar. They can absorb glucose out of the bloodstream better than normal cells can.

        A ketogenic diet works because insulin en insulin like growth factor (IGF) are strongly decreased, fatty acids and ketones become the primary fuel for healthy cells and tumor growth is obstructed (anaerobe glycolysis is slowed down). Furthermore is the immune system strengthened, inflammation decreases and apoptosis stimulated.

        • Robert K. Su MD

          Yes, I knew that. Thank you very much, Mr. Keer.

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  • mark king

    wow, if Carbohydrates can be viewed as the main culprit for many cancers by all of society, medical, scientific and the general public, it may be possible that a “cure” for cancer may happen during our life time. I guess it helps to be looking in the right direction to begin with. love your site Dr Su, thanks for all your knowledge and information.

    • Robert K. Su MD

      Thank you very much for your comments, Mr. King.

      Carbohydrates are indeed the culprit for most cancers, if not all. This article is just a brief of my presentation. I am going to tell more about some studies that have already implicated carbohydrates as the culprit. For example, despite that many physicians still repeatedly blame fats for cancer development like the one referred in the article, Chao A. et al “Meat Consumption and Risk of Colorectal Cancer.” Journal of American Medical Association, (JAMA). Volume 293, Number 2, Pages 172-182. January 12, 2005. But, when you read the other article, with a sample of nearly 1.3 millions of individuals, convincingly showed a positive correlation between some cancers and abnormal fasting blood glucose level especially in those cases of diabetes mellitus, Jee SH et al. “Fasting serum glucose level and cancer risk in Korean men and women.” Journal of American Medical Association, (JAMA). Volume 293, Number 2, Pages 194-202. January 12, 2005. . The latter article should raise everyone’s eyebrows and wonder what we have missed.

      I normally do not like to use animal studies for writing. However, just for the sake of prospective prevention and treatment, here are two for whoever is interested.
      1. Zhou, W. et al. “The calorically restricted ketogenic diet, an effective alternative therapy for malignant brain cancer.” Nutrition & Metabolism, Volume 4, Number 5. 2007.
      2. Freedland SJ, et al. “Carbohydrate restriction, prostate cancer growth, and the insulin-like growth factor axis.” The Prostate. Volume 68, Issue 1, Pages 11-19. January 1, 2008.

      • mark king

        thank-you very much, I found the article on the research for the possibility of immunization for cancer very facinating and the article about the effects of sugar on cancer cells was known back in 1914 eye opening.
        Thanks again.

        • Robert K. Su MD

          Isn’t it amazing that many good research findings were reported way back in early 1900′s but have been ignored by today’s “junk science” for the convenience of promoting certain foods and drugs. I have criticized this kind of practice all along in my writings.

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  • Tyrus Bahney

    Mr. Su,
    It is so refreshing to see a doctor at the front line of medicine, and writing online articles no less.
    Thank you! I will be sharing and referring others to your website.

    • Robert K. Su MD

      Thank you very much for your comment, Mr. Bahney.

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  • magnific

    this is the way a blog should be! thanks!

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  • Lora

    last week our group held a similar talk on this topic and you show something we haven’t covered yet, thanks.

    - Lora

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