CancerHealthNutrition

A diet for cancer?

Bottom Line:

The optimal diet to reduce the risk of breast, prostate, colorectal, lung and possibly other cancers contains the following components:

  • Decreased amounts of refined sugar and concentrated unrefined sugar like honey, evaporated cane juice.
  • Decreased red and processed meats.
  • Increased amounts of fruits, vegetables, fiber, selenium, folic acid, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, chlorophyll, and antioxidants.

Why this matters:

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund, 30-40% of ALL cancers could be prevented through a healthy diet, physical activity and keep an ideal body weight.  

Study Design:

Review article

Key findings:

  • Increased calorie intake is a key risk factor for cancer.
  • High glycemic load (how much a food will increase blood glucose level) diets are linked to gastric, upper aero-digestive tract, endometrial, ovarian, colon and colorectal cancers.
  • High fiber diets via vegetables and whole grains associated with lower risk of rectal cancers. 5 servings per day of vegetables were needed to reduce cancer risk.
  • Omega 3:6 ratio:
    • Omega 3 fatty acids (alpha-linoleic acid, EPA, DHA) are cancer protective while Omega 6 fatty acids (linoleic acid, arachidonic acid) are cancer promoting.
    • Higher ratios of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fats linked with lower risk of breast cancer.
  • Flaxseed: excellent source of fiber, omega 3 fatty acids (alpha-linoleic acid) and lignans.
    • Flax seed lignans are a type of phytoestrogen and may have anti-cancer activity.
    • In animal models, flaxseed reduced both cancer growth rate and cancer metastasis.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Looking at 206 epidemiological studies and 22 animal studies, there was evidence for higher fruit/vegetable intake with lower risk of stomach, esophagus, lung, oral cavity, pharynx, endometrium, pancreas and colon cancer.
  • Cruciferous vegetables such broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts are high in sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has anti-cancer properties.
  • Selenium has anti-cancer properties. Some good sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, whole grains, legumes, sunflower seeds.
  • Chlorophyll:  found in all green plants. It’s effective at binding polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (made with burning of coal, oil, petrol, wood), heterocyclic amines (found in grilling foods), and aflatoxin (toxin from molds found in corn, peanuts, cottonseed, tree nuts).
  • Vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin), folic acid and vitamin D may have evidence for anti-cancer properties.
  • Antioxidants such as ɑ and β carotene, lycopene and Vitamin C may have anti-cancer properties.

Limitations:  

  • The author for the study works at Hallelujah Acres Foundation and the funding for the review was provided by the Hallelujah Acres Foundation.
  • The population based studies cited in this article show correlation and not causation.

Reference:

Donaldson, M: Nutrition and Cancer: A review of the evidence for an anti-cancer diet. Nutrition Journal. 2004, 3:19.

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Dr. Sean

Sean Hashmi, MD, MS, FASN is a practicing Nephrologist and Obesity Medicine Specialist in Southern California. He is founding director of SELFPrinciple.org, a non-profit, non-commercial site focused on evidence based nutrition, health, and wellness.
Dr. Hashmi graduated from the University of California, San Diego Medical School. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine at UCLA-Olive View Medical Center followed by a fellowship in Nephrology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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