Soda Drinkers Beware: New Study Confirms it Helps Cancer Cells Grow

There’s no debate that drinking soda and sweet drinks containing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is terrible for one’s health. Sugary drinks are a leading cause of obesity which, in turn, can lead to cancer.

Soda is such a health hazard that research has shown drinking one 20-oz soda a day ages a person’s cells as much as being a regular smoker.

The good news is that over the past few years, Americans have been drinking less soda. However, it’s still a big part of the American diet. Slurping soda is as ingrained into American culture as eating hamburgers or watching football.

One reason could be that HFCS is addictive. Research has found that HFCS impacts the brain in a way that’s similar to addictive drugs. It triggers a response in the brain’s reward center that causes people to crave the substance much like a narcotic.

HFCS is ubiquitous in the American food supply because it’s subsidized by the federal government.

A study in Business Insider found that Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture spend $1.25 billion annually to subsidize crops that are vital to the junk food industry, including HFCS, corn starch, and vegetable shortening.

However, a new study may cause even more Americans to start ordering water instead of a 32-oz Coke. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston recently found that HFCS causes cancerous tumors to grow in mice.

It was known that HFCS leads to obesity which, in turn, is a major cause of cancer, but it appears that HFCS may stimulate cancerous growths by itself.

The team of researchers at Baylor genetically altered mice to develop intestinal cancer. The mice were given water to drink but half of them had it spiked with HFCS. The mice that drank HFCS quickly became obese, so the researchers switched to regulated doses of the sugary fluid.

Researchers found that the mice that drank the HFCS-infused water had tumors that grew at a faster rate than those that did not.

“These results suggest that when the animals have early stage of tumors in the intestines — which can occur in many young adult humans by chance and without notice — consuming even modest amounts of high-fructose corn syrup in liquid form can boost tumor growth and progression independently of obesity,” Dr. Jihye Yun, a study co-author, told Science.

“Further research is needed to translate this discovery to people; however, our findings in animal models suggest that chronic consumption of sugary drinks can shorten the time it takes cancer to develop.” Jun continued.

Previous studies suggest that obesity leads to an increased risk of colorectal cancer; however, there hasn’t been a direct link of HFCS to cancer development. This new research may lead researchers to discover a direct link between HFCS consumption and the development of colorectal cancers in patients regardless of their weight.

Dr. Lewis Cantley, a co-author of the study, believes that the finds may suggest that HFCS is responsible for the increase in colorectal cancers in the U.S.

“This observation in animal models might explain why increased consumption of sweet drinks and other foods with high sugar content over the past 30 years is correlating with an increase in colorectal cancers in 25 to 50-year-olds in the United States,” Cantley told Science.

“While our work was conducted in mice, our findings build on mounting evidence that sugar fuels cancer growth,” Cantley continued.

Researchers clearly have a long way to go before providing a direct link between HFCS consumption and colorectal cancer in humans, but the study definitely should make people rethink how often they consume sugary drinks.

Photo credit: Daid Brown / Flickr, Enorme Nuez / Flickr, yum8me / Flickr, Mario Tama/Getty Images.

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