Dr Chetan Deshmukh

Cancer has a sweet tooth

Written by  Sunday, 09 November 2014 00:00

Cancer grows on sugar, so cancer patients should not be given sugar.

Many people believe that cancer has a sweet tooth and hence patients are instructed not to eat sugary and starchy food-stuffs in an attempt to fight cancer- a tactic to `starve the enemy’.  Several patients abide by a self-imposed ban on carbohydrates, staying away from fruits and fruit juices, rice and other sources of carbohydrates.

It is true that sugar and starch are easy source of carbohydrates- a source of energy for all cells, normal and cancerous.  It is also true that cells deprived of this source of energy can wither and die. But one needs to bear in mind the fact that cancer cells are perfect parasites. They have in-built mechanisms to make the most use of the available resources and at times, generate sources of energy. In the absence of carbohydrates, fats and proteins can be broken down and converted into carbohydrates by complex biochemical processes even by normal cells. Cancer cells also possess the ability to convert fats and proteins into carbohydrates and hence staying off sugars and starchy foods does not work out as a defence against cancer. In fact, cancer cells, deprived of their usual energy source, literally start eating into the body’s protein mass thereby making the patients leaner and thinner.  These patients have a poor overall energy level and are likely to have worse toxicity of various drugs.  The required protein intake for a normal individual is approximately 1 gm per kilogram body weight. It means that an individual weighing 60 kilos needs at least 60 grams of proteins. India is an agricultural country and hence Indian diet is largely based on cereals, fruits and vegetables. An average Indian meal is barely sufficient in proteins; cancer patients need more proteins anyways. Abstinence from carbohydrates increases their need for proteins (which cannot be fulfilled by our diet in sufficient quantities) and may make them protein-deficient.

A balanced diet comprising of carbohydrates, fats and proteins is essential for health. This applies to cancer patients as well. A balanced diet should have more carbohydrates from complex sources (fruits, vegetables) than simple sugars (pastries, syrups, sweets, chocolates). Patients should consult their treating teams and/dietician for a healthy diet plan.

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Read 5274 times Last modified on Tuesday, 09 September 2014 12:09

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Dr Chetan Deshmukh Consulting at



1. Deshmukh Clinic & Research Center,
2. Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital,
3. Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune, Maharashtra, India.


Kolhapur Cancer Center, Gokul-Shirgaon MIDC, Kolhapur-Kagal Road, Kolhapur. Maharashtra, India.


Mahatma Gandhi Cancer Hospital, Near Gulabrao Patil Medical College, Miraj, Maharashtra, India.