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Can Diet Effect Cancer?

In keeping the title of this article short, I may have made it somewhat ambiguous. What are we really talking of?

  • Can diet help us avoid cancer?
  • Can diet help us put existing cancer into remission?
  • Can diet help recovery from cancer?

We’re speaking of all three.

A healthy diet can indeed help avoid cancer, slow down it’s progression and aid recovery [1][2]]3][4][7][8]. Not just that, a healthy diet is co-related to lower death rates across the board [5]. Additionally, there are specific diet types that are considered therapeutic in the treatment of cancer [6].

This brings us to the question of what exactly is a ‘healthy diet’? A healthy diet is about a plant based [1][3][4][5][8] diet in general, that is low in calories [1][2], includes fish [4] and has plenty of fibre [1]. Additionally, it should limit the consumption of dairy, grains, salt [5], red meat [1], processed foods, fat and sugar [2][5].

The Mediterranean and Palaeolithic diets are considered healthy diets, both associated with lower death rates irrespective of cause [5].

There is also indication of the Ketogenic Diet being helpful in the treatment of cancer [6], though other studies don’t agree. This study [9] found no effect on tumours and this paper [10] agrees the Ketogenic diet may help protect against and prevent cancer, but may not be helpful during treatment.

In case you’re looking for specific nutritional elements to include in an anti-cancer diet, here’s a helpful list [8]. Given my articles are usually high-level summaries, I’m not about to go into specifics about the utility of each of these. Please refer to the sources mentioned for details.

  • Selenium
  • Folic acid
  • Vitamin B-12
  • Vitamin D
  • Chlorophyll
  • Anti-oxidants such as Carotenoids (alpha carotene, beta carotene, lycopene, lutein, cryptoxanthin)
  • Ascorbic acid (intravenous better than dietary)
  • Probiotics
  • Flax seeds, especially lignans
  • Allium and cruciferous vegetables

A well designed diet that has all of the above elements is expected to cause a 60 – 70 percent decrease in breast, colorectal and prostate cancers, perhaps a 40 – 50 percent decrease in lung cancer and similar reductions from cancers at other locations [8].

Note here, that there are studies that have contrary findings. Some of these state that there was no connection found between quality of diet and the outcome of cancers [12][13], while another found no evidence that the Mediterranean Diet had potential in preventing pancreatic cancer [14].

In my opinion, while acknowledging the papers that disagree with a dietary connection to cancer, I can only see an upside in making dietary changes. If there are no side effects to improving the quality of one’s diet and the only outcomes are potentially positive, my decision would be to go all out on improving my diet. If I die, so be it. If I live, I’ll live better. And yes, we can still cook enjoyable food – tasty and healthy are indeed compatible.

If you’re looking for a meal plan that includes all of the above, is also low calorie as well as practically feasible, click here or mail me. If you know of other food connections to cancer, please leave a comment. I’ll look into it and possibly include it in this article.

Michael Pollan sums it up. He says, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”. Perfect.

References:

  1. “What about diet?” A qualitative study of cancer survivors’ views on diet and cancer and their sources of information
  2. Epigenetic linkage of aging, cancer and nutrition
  3. Dietary patterns and risk of pancreatic cancer: a systematic review
  4. Effect of diet on mortality and cancer recurrence among cancer survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies
  5. Paleolithic and Mediterranean Diet Pattern Scores Are Inversely Associated with All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality in Adults
  6. Ketogenic diets as an adjuvant cancer therapy: History and potential mechanism
  7. A systematic review and meta-analysis of social cognitive theory-based physical activity and/or nutrition behavior change interventions for cancer survivors
  8. Nutrition and cancer: A review of the evidence for an anti-cancer diet
  9. The Ketogenic Diet Does Not Affect Growth of Hedgehog Pathway Medulloblastoma in Mice
  10. Serial MRI Imaging Reveals Minimal Impact of Ketogenic Diet on Established Liver Tumor Growth
  11. The Ketogenic Diet: A Detailed Beginner’s Guide to Keto
  12. Diet Quality of Cancer Survivors and Non-Cancer Individuals: Results from a National Survey
  13. Diet Quality and Cancer Outcomes in Adults: A Systematic Review of Epidemiological Studies
  14. Mediterranean diet and risk of pancreatic cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition cohort

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