Chocolate – the NET effect



I’ve always had a ‘sweet tooth’ and the softer the sweet the better – toffee, marshmallows, chocolate, jelly babies, jelly beans, fruit pastilles, fudge, liquorice allsorts, ‘tablet’ and macaroon bars (both from Scotland), are all on my list of favourites.  In terms of desserts, I love those too – ice cream, cheese cake, meringue, cake, sponge with custard, the list is endless. And of course a hot drink isn’t complete without a biscuit (or three….). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not stuffing my face with sweet stuff 24/7, however I do need my sugar ‘fix’ now and then. I’m not a large person, I’m small ‘framed’ and although I was starting to look a bit ‘chubby’ early 2010, my Neuroendocrine Cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment took care of that.

Coping with cancer is hard and it can lead to certain lifestyle changes including diet. This is also hard! Coping with the amount of available and contradictory dietary information on cancer is challenging too!  There is also significant ‘chatter’ suggesting that sugar ‘fuels’ cancer cells.  Apparently there are more than one million websites capitalising on this fear but virtually none offering any science.  However, if you check reputable websites such as the main US and UK research agencies, you will see this link has not been scientifically proven and this claim is debunked on many reputable cancer websites in their lists of ‘cancer myths.  Of course the situation is not helped by the wide circulation of these myths by the misinformed via social media – we’ve all seen these haven’t we?

I’m not saying that sugar is a good thing but like many other facets of modern lifestyle, too much of a good thing won’t be good for long.  The last thing any cancer patient wants is (yet) another debilitating or long-term chronic illness, something always in the back of my mind. I now watch what I eat although I try to keep a balance so that I can still enjoy some of my favourite foods – my food diary helps identify the ‘culprits’.  I had actually cut down on sugar before I was diagnosed, it’s addictive so it can be hard work!

So are sweets dangerous for a Neuroendocrine cancer patient? Like a lot of other things, in moderation they probably don’t do any harm but that’s based on my own experience. The amount of specific amines in foods can be a useful guide to how much you eat.  Please note not everyone has bad reactions and foods high in these amines do not fuel tumour growth!  Moreover, the only time you should really avoid these high amine foods is just prior to a 5HIAA test (unless you have a consistently bad reaction to them of course).  Chocolate is said to be “moderately high” in tyramine, dopamine, xanthenes and theobromine.  One size doesn’t fit all though and NET nutrition guides emphasise the amount will often matter more than the food itself. I will therefore continue to eat small amounts 😃 If you want to learn more about NET nutrition – read here. You’ll also see a link in that article from well known NET dietitian Tara Whyand suggesting sweets are used for quickly treating episodes of hypoglycemia. Read more about Diabetes and NETs by clicking here.

Let me complete the blog with a recent personal incident regarding chocolate indicating there is a dark side to it (no pun intended!).  I cracked a tooth whilst eating a piece of chocolate in 2014.  I never found the broken piece so I assumed I’d swallowed it.  I kept a lookout for a few days but no sign and I presumed I just missed it. However, 32 days later, my regular surveillance CT scan revealed an “ingested foreign body or ‘entrolith‘ within a loop of the small bowel”.  A bit of a worry given the amount of surgery I’ve had.  My Consultant said it would eventually work its way out of the body naturally and it did.  Phew!

And again in 2020, a cracked another tooth in the COVID-19 lockdown and at the time of writing it’ll be another couple of months before I can see a dentist.  There’s no pain just an uncomfortable feeling.  Dental wax is helping although it’s a bit of pain to insert into the tooth.  

Apologies to anyone unable to eat any chocolate without an adverse reaction.

Thanks for reading


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9 thoughts on “Chocolate – the NET effect

  • Oh, yes…I have discovered recently that dark chocolate mint “lace” cookies and I can no longer get along. 🙁 We had a violent fight for three days. Excellent post, fellow zebra!

  • Nick

    I am living under a Damoclean sword whilst coping with the risk of localised prostrate cancer developing into something ”not localised’. My son has just finished 12 chemo sessions (he has Hodgkin Lymphoma) and I watch him suffer the violence of the ABVD drugs side effects and the huge risks associated with a lack of a working immune system. He keeps nagging .me about my very low intake of alcohol, my love of chocolate, ice cream, buttered toast and marmalade and so on. I have for sometime followed the maxim ‘A little bit of what you fancy does you good’. I am due my next PSA check soon in the hope that it returns a ‘no increase in PSA level’. Other problems have started to appear. As Ronny knows I have always been fit but since my son’s illness I have neglected to maintain my own fitness and now face the risk of diabetes as I was called up for a repeat blood test following a well-man check up. I thought it was prostate related but it wasn’t; it was blood sugar level related. I am with my sister for a couple of days to spend some time with my 97 years old Mum who has moved from Grange over Sands into a lovely care home near Stansted airport. 2014 has not been a good year for me as I l lost my Stepfather, mother-in-law and a very close friend who died in a fatal car accident in Australia. Her funeral took place in Cheltenham last week. The point of my comment is I need to adjust my own life to counter the risks I now face whilst not denying myself the things that I enjoy with a sense of moderation. I need to get back home tomorrow to my wife and son to prepare for Christmas and to dig out my walking boots so that I can be positive about what I need to do. Ronny I love your blogs and I think of you Chrissie lots. Whatever life chucks at you face it head-on and enjoy the time you have and hug those that you love. I have stopped eating a whole Toblerone in one day and am satisfied with just ‘two peaks’ now and then as a treat and boy do I love those treats!

  • Great post. I love sweets too – – the same ones that you do. I also eat them in moderation now that I’ve had bowel surgery because they cause diarrhea if I eat any large amount. I hope your tooth comes out soon!

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