Why The Ice Cream For Breakfast Campaign In Support Of Cancer Is A Bad Idea
There is a cancer patient in the family and, irrespective of the type or stage, the family will do anything to support the patient, manage and alleviate the suffering of the disease and fuel the hope of remission or even complete recovery of health after treatment.
Invariably, the question arises as to what could be initiated to diminish the growth or spread of cancer.
So the caring family looks at identifying all known factors that could possibly be a contributing element to the complex profile of the disease in order to manage or prevent it. So everything possible is done to reduce the patient’s stress (financial, emotional), improve sleep, take care of other basics, in particular nutrition.
Ideally then, the patient is not given any refined processed foods, hydrogenated oils, genetically modified foods, MSG laced chips and culprit number one: Sugar
Really Sugar? Sugar causes Cancer? Yes it does.
Some might say: “But I have read that it is a myth, the body needs sugar to function. Also my aunt Amy eats cookies and has 7 spoons of sugar in her coffee with her melktert daily, and uncle James loves to braai red meat and has three Brandy and Cokes a day and both are in their late 70’s and no signs of cancer yet.”
Lucky them. Everyone has a different genetic make-up and different immune system.
The rest of us in the family who are not so lucky will have to manage those two factors more preventatively by consciously starting to stress less, exercise regularly, sleep more, eat more organic, fresh and unrefined real food and drastically reduce flower and grains and cut out sugars.
So Why Sugar?
Humans are hard-wired to crave sweetness. If the sweetness is packaged in a raw fruit it contains lots of fibre and volume, so that the consumption thereof is limited and the glucose and fructose released into your system slowly and managed hormonally.
Sugar is made up of two molecules: half glucose and half fructose. Fructose has no biochemical function in the human body, and largely follows the same metabolic pathway in the liver as alcohol. Alcohol is toxic. We do not need it. Just as we do not need fructose, which is also toxic.
In 2016 however, industrialised sugar, in the cheap, processed form of High Fructose Corn Syrup or fructose produced from maize is found in almost every processed food item from yoghurt to burger patties, Oros to Appletizer, Coke, energy drinks, ice-cream, bread, the list is almost endless.
At any given moment our bloodstream can manage less than 1 teaspoon, or 4g of sugar before it becomes toxic to the system and all sorts of hormones start to manage the blood sugar towards safer levels.
Drinking one small can of coke and we already consume around 9 teaspoons, a magnum ice-cream up to 6 teaspoons. NAN Baby milk available anywhere in Windhoek contains 58.8% of fructose. This results in all sorts of metabolic diseases, including overweight and often undernourished babies. But there is evermore worrisome factor:
It starts the sugar addiction cycle.
Sugar is categorised as being equally if not more addictive to humans than cocaine. Just try and go without sugar for one day and you will anguishly get the picture. Sugar activates the reward system. So we crave it. And because we feel happy when we eat sugar, ice cream or juices, we know that it makes our loved ones happy too… we call them “Honey”. “Sweetness”, “Sugar” and give them honey, sweets, ice-cream, chocolate and cupcakes as gifts of love or tokens of reward.
So it comes as no surprise to me that the campaign to support children with cancer and raise awareness that kids have cancer too uses ice-cream as the driver of the campaign. Alternative drivers could have been a painting campaign, donate your smart-phone, make a child laugh day, plant spinach at school, a story-telling competition, a shirt design event, a wear-no-uniform at school day, or what about: Lets eat no sugar for a week?! No, the campaign organisers prefer using pink cup cakes or ice-ceam. Why?
Because it works: Everyone loves ice-cream, right? And it will brighten up their day for just that moment, right? And one ice cream won’t do any harm, right? So from the outset, the campaign is guaranteed to be hitting the right nerve. And it does. People are prepared to defend their addiction to the point of violently irrational behaviour under the umbrella of a noble cancer support and prevention drive.
Every time I wheeled my siblings into the cancer ward at Windhoek Central to receive their treatment I was anguished afresh at the sight of the many children receiving chemotherapy treatment from the expert and caring hands of those near angelic medical staff at the DR. AB May Cancer clinic.
Trying to come to terms with this, plus the inevitable sacrifice of my siblings to the ravages of cancer and my attempt to minimise my personal risk profile, led me on a fact finding mission of many years.
Childhood cancer differs from cancer in adults, and few of the causes of adult cancer apply to children. Childhood cancer is also is not due to human behaviour. It is simply just tragic and to my mind decidedly unfair. There is no blame on the parents whatsoever, just admiration as to how they manage the situation.
So why then my stance on not supporting the ice-cream for breakfast campaign?
Knowing that the many forms of sugar are detrimental to our health and prolonged exposure to excessive sugar consumption causes a multitude of inflammatory and metabolic diseases and certainly defines the pathway to many causes of cancers, this campaign promotes sugar consumption and sends out the flawed message to healthy kids and parents that it is OK to eat ice cream, which it is not.
Parents supporting the campaign would argue that it is a once-off and not detrimental to health by anyone’s standards. At first, some would even agree. However, it again sets the precedent that sugar or ice cream is healthy. Neither of the two is. Sugar is addictive, it is toxic and in adulthood it is inflammatory. Together with many other factors it can cause and accelerate cancer and in patients aggravate it.
If anyone has an already weakened immune system and suffers from cancer, with additional stress placed on the system by the treatment, would we not consider every option to lessen the pain and period of suffering, and placing every bit of hope and action on recovery and health?
If we now know that refined, processed food and sugar, fructose in ice-cream in particular, are highly detrimental to a healthy body over time, and acutely detrimental and inflammatory to a weakened immune system, reason would prohibit us to even give one additional teaspoon of refined sugar, fructose or ice-cream to a cancer patient. Adult or not. And yes, in this case one portion matters. Just one cup of ice-cream has about 7 teaspoons of sugar.
So why, with so many other options available, start a campaign promoting wide-spread consumption of ice cream in healthy and ill children, where the only reasonable action would be to improve their health and decrease the period of suffering rather than prolonging it? Surely, if you have read up to here, it will not make sense any more. In raising awareness, wouldn’t a single sugar free day create a more significant impact? Or perhaps a dance for cancer before school event?
Of course children will be happy and their eyes will light up in gratitude when they have ice cream for breakfast. But at what cost whilst there are so many other ways to do that as I already mentioned above?
We as adults need to change our mindset on the reward systems we avail to the children in our care. We are responsible for their health. Children are very vulnerable to the whims of our deep seated beliefs and selective opinions. But it is our task to protect them from harm and misinformation. By rewarding our children with ice-cream we are satisfying our own sweet concept of reward, not the need of our children. No one needs ice-cream. Our children need a loving care, a safe environment, and real food.
Think twice next time you grab a coke, a cup cake or a bowl of ice cream to make an ill child happy, think about what you are doing, why you are doing it and which alternative could make the child equally or possibly more happy.
Patients flourish on empathy, love, care, happiness and laughter.
No one needs ice-cream. Not even once.