Cancer and School Lunch

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We know that the high sugar content of school food contributes to the childhood obesity and diabetes epidemics.  But could it also be increasing a child's cancer risk?  Scientific leaders in cancer research make a strong case for YES.  

The connection looks like this….

Excessive sugar consumption = Increasing obesity rates

 Increasing obesity rates = Increasing cancer rates

so by the transitive property excessive sugar consumption = increasing cancer rates.

 There is strong new evidence linking obesity to an increased risk of 13 different cancers.              ( )  There is also no debate on the leading cause of obesity, excessive sugar consumption.  

The next logical question is how much sugar do our kids consume through the school lunch and breakfast program?  Here are some numbers from a public elementary school near me….


Figure 2





The answer as demonstrated in Figure 1 and Figure 2 is a child in elementary school can consume about 30 teaspoons of sugar if they eat breakfast and lunch at school.  Figure 3 shows the recent American Heart Association recommendation that children consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day.  Therefore, by eating breakfast and lunch at school, a child can consume 5 times the recommended amount of sugar each day.

Figure 3

To magnify the enormity of the sugar exposure at school I have included an article from the New England Journal of Medicine that demonstrates the effect of JUST 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day on a child.   These effects were measured in a double blinded, randomized placebo controlled study that demonstrated statistically significant effects on weight gain, skinfold-thickness measurements, waist-to-height ratio, and fat mass.  Here is the link to this invaluable study…

Remember that the effects seen in this study were from 6 teaspoons of sugar per day, while kids consume about 30 teaspoons of sugar per day by eating breakfast and lunch at our public schools (5 times the amount in this study).  

The logic connecting school lunch to cancer risk follows quite nicely from the above elucidation.  By eating breakfast and lunch at school your child can consume 30 teaspoons of added sugar, 5 times the recommended amount of sugar by the American Heart Association and 5 times the amount of sugar that showed statistically significant effect on weight gain, skin fold-thickness measurements, waist-to-height ratio, and fat mass in the NEJM study on children. 

If you still think connecting the high sugar content of our school food to cancer seems far-fetched then perhaps these cancer experts can sway you...

Lewis Cantley, Director of the Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School, put it this way:  "Sugar scares me."

Craig Thompson, the President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York says,  "I have eliminated refined sugar from my diet and eat as little as I possibly can, because I believe ultimately it's something I can do to decrease my risk of cancer."


The above quotes are borrowed from the NY Times Magazine Article from 4/13/2011, Is Sugar Toxic, written by Gary Taubes ( ).