A study published in the August issue of Cancer Research has resulted in several premature and potentially misleading conclusions when it comes to fructose and its effect on pancreatic tumor cells. Unfortunately, the media covering this story, and even the authors, have been too quick to extrapolate the results of laboratory research on pure fructose to real-world conditions, which is not appropriate or helpful to consumers.
The main contribution of this paper is to demonstrate that cancer cells utilize fructose as an alternate substrate to glucose for fueling growth. Cancer cells are well known for having multiple mechanisms to escape the body's normal controls, which makes controlled laboratory studies poor models for generating meaningful results.
This study does not look at the way fructose is actually consumed by humans, as it was conducted in a laboratory, not inside the human body. The study also narrowly compared pure fructose to pure glucose, neither of which is consumed in isolation in the human diet. Humans consume a wide array of foods that contain both fructose and glucose in combination along with many other sugars and nutrients. Most notably, both sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup contain roughly 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose.
The study's authors inaccurately state that high fructose corn syrup is the most significant source of fructose in the diet, whereas in the United States more fructose is still consumed from sugar than from high fructose corn syrup. Indeed, worldwide, humans consume nine times as much sucrose as they do high fructose corn syrup. Fructose is a natural, simple sugar also commonly found in fruits, vegetables, table sugar, maple syrup, and honey.
The causes of pancreatic cancer are poorly understood. To blame one component of the diet is highly speculative based on one, small study done in a Petri dish.
People should seek the advice of physicians, rather than rely on any one study, to make important decisions on medical treatment for a serious disease such as cancer.