Several of our intrepid fans recently spotted a free booklet from the NHS offering cancer nutrition advice to people undertaking chemotherapy. This booklet contained a cancer diet which focussed on high glucose/high carbohydrate foods and saturated fats/animal fats (for example encouraging chemo patients to eat chocolate cakes, suigary buns, milky sugary tea etc). Worse, each page carried a little picture of a cheeseburger, a milkshake and a cake.
Afraid that we had gone mad, we wrote to the Royal Marsden, who had handed it out, for an explanation. The Royal Marsden replied via a lady who said she was a Government approved NHS dietician, not one of those nutritionists who are just trying to sell a few books,(we have kept the letter). She saw the purpose of a chemo patients cancer diet as maintaining energy levels and, especially, weight.
However, we have repeatedly covered research in Cancer Watch that glucose is the favourite food of a cancer cell, and animal fats are also known to drive cancer, while fats, sugar and salt might weaken the immune system further and even reduce the effectiveness of the chemotherapy. What is the idea of feeding a cancer when the doctors are busy trying to kill it off??! At first sight the NHS diet is likely to stimulate the very cancer the oncologist and patient are trying to beat!!
So we asked a number of nutrition experts around the world (including other NHS Dieticians) to suggest the elements that they thought were important in a proper programme of cancer nutrition, especially during chemotherapy.
On the left you will see the report on our findings from the various experts (click here to go straight to the article).
By far the most important article - a MUST READ ARTICLE - is entitled A Diet for Chemotherapy (click here to go straight to it) where Chris Woollams takes all their suggestions and adds in some of the very latest research findings we have covered in Cancer Watch over the last few years. For example, there is expert research that medicinal mushrooms, green tea and astragalus all improve the success of chemotherapy and increase survival times. And thgat people with the highest levels of blood glucose survive the least!!!! Don´t you think everyone should know this??
You may also want to look at a piece which was one of our icon magazine centrefolds - 20 things you need to know about chemotherapy (click here). This will give you tips and ideas, not just on cancer nutrition, but on other things you can do to make your chemotherapy more bareable.
Click here to read about The Rainbow Diet
Meanwhile we recommend you steer clear of all sodium, sugar, caffeine, animal fats, fast food (including Cheeseburgers), snack foods, refined wheat (including cakes) and dairy (including milkshakes) but try and build your potassium and magnesium levels (nuts, pulses, green vegetables, red peppers, fish, apples, bananas, garlic etc etc).
In defence of the NHS Dieticians, we found that they had so little time and were so stretched that they only really ever saw the 7 per cent of patients suffering cachexia (severe weight loss DUE to chemotherapy drugs) - and patients can die from this, so obviously it is their prime focus.
That does not mean their booklet should be used by the other 93 per cent of people on chemotherapy though.
CLICK HERE TO GO TO ´A DIET FOR CHEMOTHERAPY, by CHRIS WOOLLAMS