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UCLA Study: Pancreatic Cancer Loves Fructose, Controversial Sweetener

As Americans' consumption of high-fructose corn syrup -- a corn-based sweetener found in sodas and other processed foods -- has skyrocketed, so has our propensity to become obese and develop diabetes.

Not surprisingly, corn growers and the food industry have fought a preventive war against any notion that HFCS consumption and those epidemics are related, with an expensive, and not always unpersuasive, ad campaign. But an entirely new problem seems to have arisen for the sweet, sweet HFCS.

UCLA reports: Pancreatic cancers use the sugar fructose, very common in the Western diet, to activate a key cellular pathway that drives cell division, helping the cancer grow more quickly...

Although it is widely known that cancers use glucose, a simple sugar, to fuel their growth, this is the first time a link has been shown between fructose and cancer proliferation, said the study's senior author, Dr. Anthony Heaney, an associate professor of medicine and neurosurgery and a Jonsson Cancer Center researcher.

Heaney said his findings show "Cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation." There's no reason to expect different results in different types of cancers, he said.

The research will be published in the journal Cancer Research. (The research was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, which is ironic given how much we subsidize corn, though the same was once true of tobacco.)

Heaney said the research has significant public health ramifications: "Hopefully, at the federal level, there will be some effort to step back on the amount of HFCS in our diets." Has Heaney seen "The Insider"? Because that's the power the food industry will bring to bear on him and his research, assuming it stands up to peer review.

Should be interesting to watch this play out in the coming years, er, decades.

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