As if you needed another reason to abandon your sweet tooth once and for all, here’s one more: Not only does sugar take a serious toll on your waistline, but Belgian researchers say it could also stimulate the growth of cancer tumors.
Their nine-year study, recently published in the journal Nature Communications, observed yeast cells in the lab. Ultimately, they found that the yeast cells’ fermentation process (which mirrors that of cancer cells) actually causes them to multiply and expand.
Unlike non-cancerous cells, which use oxygen to convert glucose into energy for the body, cancer cells get their energy from fermenting sugar—a phenomenon called the “Warburg effect.” The Belgian study revealed that sugar “awakens” existing cancer cells, triggering a more rapid rate of tumor growth. (Keep an eye out for the clear signs you’re eating too much sugar.)
In other words, “The hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth,” lead study author and Belgian molecular biologist Johan Thevelein, a professor at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, wrote in a press release.
Previous studies have found that cancer treatments might be able to exploit the cells’ sweet tooth with targeted therapies. While scientists still don’t understand why cancer cells behave like this, these results could help doctors develop new diet strategies for cancer patients going forward.
Granted, that’s not the only reason we should probably avoid excess sugar in our diets (including the foods with way more sugar than you realize!). If you have an uncontrollable sweet tooth, here’s how to kick that sugar addiction for good.