Originally published in July 2002 icon, updated in Issue 3 2005 icon
Diet is the most enormous subject and here we try to condense the most important issues into just a couple of pages.
The Government Recommends
One oncologist we know told a patient that he did not recommend supplements. He preferred the Government's recommendation of five lots of fruit and vegetable a day.
However in France this figure is ten. In the USA the 'prevention' recommendation until January was five lots, plus 30 minutes of exercise. But that, to judge by a quick study of the average New Yorker's girth, was not working. So, some bright spark of a scientist with official favour decided upon a new solution: Thirteen lots of fruit and vegetables a day and 60-90 minutes of exercise!
We'll, that should fix it in America, then! Don't hold your breath.
We've also had Government endorsed healthy eating pyramids, which tell you the foods you can eat once in a blue moon (there's lots of those) and the few you can eat daily. But that's not a diet. A diet is not about the foods you can't eat - it's about the foods you should eat.
The MD Anderson Cancer Centre - John Boik Recommends
And here's the rub. There's a chap called John Boik. He's at the top of the prestigious MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Texas and in 2001 he published a book called, 'Natural Compounds in Cancer Therapy'. It's over an inch thick and contains 4000 scientific references. Every doctor should be made to read it during their seven years at medical school because, if nothing else, it will show them and prove to them that diet is crucial in the prevention and treatment of cancer.
His belief is that cancer is a multi-step process. He sites 20 steps, for example including pre-cancer cells, cancer cells, a growth, a tumour, the need for blood supply, firing off cells round the body etc etc. And he assigns foods and supplements to fight each step.
Nowhere near as comprehensive, but an awful lot easier to read, is my own "Tree of Life-the Anti-cancer diet", which looks at the foods you must add into your diet. Foods, by and large, that we just don't eat anymore. Foods that have a proven, well-researched, anti-cancer effect. Like fish oils with their long chain omega 3 and vitamin D, or garlic (known to reduce the formation of blood supply vessels to tumours).
Foods That Don't Help
There are three foods that both I and the research believe are of concern. These are dairy, salt and sugar, in excess.
There is also research against eating too much meat, especially red meat, but this might not be true for every reader. I am, for one, a great believer in metabolic typing - one man's meat, is another man's poison.
You may have heard of a book by Peter D'Adamo: "Eat Right for your Type". In this he suggests that across the world there exists in homo sapiens several different blood types and that each flourishes on a different diet. Some prefer vegan diets, others meat based. It's all about our ancestry.
A rather more sophisticated system has been developed in America by Bill Wolcott who uses nine biochemical factors. Dr Etienne Callebout in the UK uses a similar approach at his Harley Street treatment of cancer. We can give you more details if you ring the office on 01280 821211.
Certain cancer centres - for example, the Bristol Cancer Help Centre - recommend vegetarian diets for cancer patients. But our note of caution is that anyone embarking on such a programme, especially someone with breast cancer, should definitely supplement with natural vitamin B-12. (Chlorella is a good source - ring 01280 821211 for details). Women with breast cancer are invariably deficient in B-12 and you wouldn't want to make matters worse as it occurs naturally in meats.
So, back to the foods that do not help matters:
Swedish research indicates that the consumption of dairy and the incidence of prostate cancer are linked in a direct line graph. The more you consume, the higher your risk. Not quite so blatant is the link with breast cancer. Does organic, or low fat milk avoid the problem? Only slightly, because the issue is not pesticides or fat, it is IGF 1 (Insulin - like Growth Factor). This makes cells divide rapidly and small calves grow to big cows in 10 months or so. But we humans grow to full size in 18 years. We don't need our cells multiplying that fast. In biochemical terms this is dubbed 'cellular proliferation' and the NCI in the USA linked it to increased cancer risk as long ago as 1992.
Put simply, we all consume too much of it. And glucose is the favourite 'food' of the cancer cell.
Glucose is the favourite 'food' of the cancer cell
Also we don't want to cause undue stress to our pancreas, because the pancreas also produces enzymes that can switch off some cancer cells (see section below on Oestrogen). But the pancreas is also the organ that pumps out insulin in response to excesses of refined carbohydrates and sugars, and overload can produce both diabetes and an impaired pancreas.
Acid Bodies Feed Cancer
You may not realise it but every day of our lives we each make 200 or so pre-cancer or potential cancer cells. Our immune systems 'deal' with them day in day out. That is, as long as they are operating fully.
If the immune system is defective or deficient, then problems can set in. The body, the immune system, the cellular systems all need a pH of about 7.4 (7.2 is neutral) to operate at their maximum. This means, in simple English, that they need to be slightly alkaline.
Unfortunately factors such as stress, smoking, alcohol, coffee, many drugs and meats and fish all leave acid residues in the body.
A list of acid and alkaline foods is shown below. Some foods are open to debate but is broadly correct. Certain cancer therapies, for example Carctol, are part of an extreme alkaline producing regime.
Acid Residue Producers
Lack of sleep
Preservatives, jams etc
Products in vinegar
Salt and condiments; MSG
All Fresh Foods
Meats, fish, shellfish, scallops, crab
All processed and salted meats, smoked fish
Cereals and Nuts
All packet nuts, crisps and snacks
All refined flour including noodles, spaghetti, buckwheat
Cornflakes and most processed breakfast cereals
Pie, pastries and bread
Alkaline Residue Products
Fresh green beans
Fresh cracked nuts
Fresh juices (own preparation)
Herb teas, green tea
Olive oil, corn oil
But probably the way we all make our bodies acidic is through the consumption of too much sodium. Found in salt (sodium chloride) or dried meats (sodium nitrite) or just hidden in canned food, bread, breakfast cereals or soy sauce, the largest levels are found in sausages, bacon, dried meats, but worst are processed, prepared and Chinese foods (Monosodium glutamate).
This acidity, I prefer to call it nutritional toxicity, occurs as follows:
In our cells, we have power stations; they are called mitochondria. They take in oxygen and carbohydrate and by a complex system of chemical reactions involving potassium, they produce our energy. In many cancers, it is the power stations that are 'at fault' working in the absence of oxygen.
Now, if you consume too much sodium you can displace the potassium in your power stations. The sodium will still allow the chemical reactions to occur, but just not as efficiently. Less oxygen will be pulled into the cell, less energy produced, so the power stations have to work harder to sustain the cell.
Sodium by-products, sodium salts, are more acid than potassium salts. So the cell becomes more acid and draws in even less oxygen, and becomes even less efficient. And so a downward spiral sets in.
In a very few cases, with less and less energy being produced, the cell powers down below the level of charge necessary for the repair mechanism, p 53 gene to work. Think of it as a battery getting weaker and weaker and then the light goes out.
And then you are in trouble. Low oxygen, the cell working like crazy to product a little energy, no repair gene. Cancer is just a step away.
Of course, most of us don't poison ourselves to this extent but we certainly walk the road.
Magnesium and a fully operating pump is an essential requirement for a healthy cell
On the outside of every cell is a pump, driven by magnesium and this pumps potassium into the cell and sodium out. Magnesium and a fully operating pump is an essential requirement for a healthy cell. 40 per cent of Americans (and probably us Brits too) are deficient in magnesium. Why? Too much dairy, which depresses magnesium levels, and too few magnesium foods in our diets.
How To Correct?
US research suggest that you consume no more that 1.5 gms of sodium per day. That's 6 slices of bread, or 1 small sausage and a slice of bacon. A Chinese meal might be 15 gms!
Meanwhile increase your intake of pulses, nuts, muesli, whole grains, green leaf vegetable, carrots, apples, pears and potatoes for your essential intake of potassium and magnesium.
Foods That Help
If they could be categorised simply, I'd say that they are the foods we used to eat 50 years ago, but have since forgotten. All have been covered in detail in icon before. All and more are in the Tree of Life. Here are the main ones.
Fish Oils - great source of long chain omega 3. Shown by Nobel Prize winner John Vane in 1982 to help reduce inflammation, often the precursor to cancer. They help reduce negative hormones around cells (see Mental state). Excellent for colon cancer etc - great source of vitamin D (the only other major source is the effect of sunlight on the cholesterol layers under the skin). Research in just the last 3 years has shown the crucial importance of vitamin D in cancer prevention and treatment. We used to consume 75,000 tonnes, now it's only 15,000 tonnes. You simply must take fish oils every day of your life!
Garlic - better than other members of the onion family, also reduces inflammation, and cuts formation of blood vessels to tumours. Must be fresh. Also kills microbes and yeasts in the body.
Pulses - 100 years ago 30 per cent of our protein came from pulses. Now it's only 2 per cent. Beans, peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, soya etc. Excellent source of phytoestrogens, (see section below on Oestrogen).
Greens - You must eat your greens. Vitamin K now being shown as strong cancer fighter especially for lung and liver cancers. Most of us do not even eat the miniscule RDA any more. Then there are polyphenols, for example in green tea, which has been shown effective against skin, breast and prostrate cancers, and more recently against leukaemia. Or Indole 3 Carbinol, typically in broccoli, which has been shown effective against breast and prostate cancer.
Nuts - Excellent sources of B vitamins, selenium and vitamin E; crack them where possible as 'see-through' packaging and heavily lit store shelves can result in rancidity.
Polysaccharrdes - 4 Nobel Prizes in the last 10 years can't be wrong! Naturally occurring long chains of glucose - you can't make them or break them. They clean up cellular membranes improving receptor site functions, aiding communication and your immune system. In medicinal mushrooms, aloe vera, noni juice, mothers' milk, onions, garlic, turmeric, oats, psyllium, echinacea, whole brown rice, and good old apples and pears.
Lycopene is not just an excellent anti-oxidant, it binds to fats in the body and helps remove them. Linked to lower rates of prostrate cancer and reduced systems. Eat tomatoes, especially cooked tomatoes.
We have recently covered all the important supplements in icon and they are extensively covered on our web pages and in our books.
The most relevant are - and please be sure to take the natural not the synthetic form, where appropriate:
Beta-Carotene - Best taken as natural Chlorella (300 times the level of carrot), or in red peppers.
Vitamin E - Ideally natural and containing all 4 tocopherols and all 4 tocotrienols. (But the EU current plan is to allow only synthetic version of one tocopherol)
Coenzyme Q10 - Important to the power stations
Zinc - Important aid to Vitamin C
Vitamin C - Why not just eat red peppers and berries? Supplement is best in ester form, as it is kinder on the stomach than the acid form, and take one with bioflavenoids. (But the Current EU plan is to ban ester Vitamin C)
Selenium - Increasingly being shown to be influential against cancer, and good (as with Chlorella) at displacing toxic, heavy metals like mercury from the body.
The Oestrogen Family
Oestrogen is not a single hormone, but a family of hormones The nastiest, most potent form is oestradiol, which is covered under 'toxins' in more detail. It can be converted to a much safer variant, oestrone, by Indole 3 Carbinol. About 40 times safer than even this are phytoestrogens, the oestrogens of plants and pulses. Oriental women have up to a 1000 times the levels of phytoestrogens in their blood of Western women.
Some chemical ingredients in pesticides and in-home products like toiletries or household products can also mimic the effects of oestradiol.
On the surface of your cells you have receptor sites. Oestradiol and some chemicals mimics can bind these receptor sites causing the systems inside the cell to change fundamentally, for example lowering oxygen levels by up to 40 per cent.
Oestrone, and phytoestrogens can also bind to the same receptor sites but because they are so much weaker they do not have the same cataclysmic effect inside the cell and, so to varying degrees, these variants afford protection.
It is absolutely impossible to cover the whole area of poor diet in just a few pages
Dismiss the effects of diet at your peril
It is however important to know that a nutritional therapy, run by Dr Nicholas Gonzalez in New York, and featuring a defined, metabolically-typed personal diet, 130 supplements and pancreatic (also called digestive) enzymes is nearing the end of clinical trials in the US. It has already, impressively completely outperformed orthodox medicine in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
Dismiss the effects of diet at your peril.