January 5, 2016

Once again, an animal study that links consuming sugar to cancer is being sensationalized. Studies like this have made news periodically for decades, yet when the full body of science on the subject is evaluated, no credible link between ingested sugars and cancer has been established.

As with other studies on this subject, this study has serious limitations that should be disclosed, particularly when the headlines are as serious as these have been. Not only do the authors misstate and exaggerate current U.S. sugar consumption and trends in consumption, they also claim the mice in the study were fed sugar levels comparable to levels in a Western diet. Yet, the data provided shows the mice were fed massive amounts of fructose (as part of sucrose) with the lowest level of fructose fed more than double U.S. consumption.

While the authors are quick to say the finding are the result of fructose, they state that “it is unclear how fructose alters 12-LOX abundance and 12-HETE production.” This is not a minor point, nor is the fact that the diets contained physiologically challenging and unrealistic quantities of fructose. Past animal studies have already shown that excessive levels of fructose that exceed the animal’s ability to metabolize the nutrient lead to metabolic disruptions including pro-inflammatory activity. The fact that these points aren’t discussed in detail in the paper and in the media coverage is vastly misleading.

Those reporting on this study should have also disclosed that the study was funded by EOG Resources (an oil and gas company) and its Board member Leighton Steward. Leighton Steward is an author of Sugar Busters, a late 1990s anti-sugar book.

When it comes to studies that concern cancer, the scientific community and the media should strive to maintain the highest standard of scientific integrity to ensure the public is not needlessly scared or misled. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case in the coverage of this study.

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