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Upstate cancer research shows link between sugar alcohols and liver cancer

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  • Staff Report 

A study conducted by Andras Perl, a cancer researcher at Upstate Medical University, has revealed a connection between sugar alcohols found in sugar-free foods and low-calorie sweeteners and liver cancer. Perl has been a professor of medicine at Upstate Medical University since 1992 and focuses on autoimmunity, cancer, and their treatments.


Perl’s latest findings began with an investigation into the enzyme transaldolase, which some people lack due to a genetic defect. His research led to the discovery of various cell processes related to metabolism, mitochondria, mitochondrial function, cellular energy, and cell proliferation that are affected by the presence or absence of this enzyme.

By working with mice that were deficient in transaldolase, Perl found that these animals developed liver disease and cancer. In the absence of transaldolase, sugar alcohols accumulated, leading to a 200-fold increase in erythritol in the mice.


It remains unclear how much sugar alcohol consumption is required to cause cancer. Perl cautioned that not everyone who consumes these sweeteners will develop cancer, but some people will, though the exact percentage is unknown.

Sugar alcohols like erythritol are used as sweeteners in sugar-free products, according to registered dietitian Emily Tills. She advised limiting the intake of such products and occasionally indulging in sugar-filled alternatives instead.