Saturated fat and increased cancer risk

Saturated fat and increased cancer risk
Saturated fat consumption is linked to a greater risk and greater aggression of cancer, and to more metastases and increased death rates if you maintain high blood fat levels when you already have cancer.
There is a growing trend amongst 'Health Experts', especially in America, who advocate high fat diets as a way of being healthier and beating chronic illnesses like cancer. This is simply not supported by the research evidence. In fact the contrary is true.
While there is evidence - in the form of two meta-studies - that people eating high levels of fat develop no more heart disease than people eating low levels, the same cannot be said about cancer.
Furthermore, studies such as these hide the health difference between good fat and bad fat, and what other foods are simultaneously being controlled in the diet.
Saturated fats are bad for you if you want to beat cancer
Saturated fat consumption (meat, dairy, lard, coconut oil) is bad news if you are trying to avoid or beat cancer. For example, a 2017 study on breast cancer from the Women's Health Initiative(1) clearly showed that women with a 20% lowered level of calories from fat had significantly lower death rates from breast cancer across the 16 year follow up period. 
LDL, or ’bad’ cholesterol in the blood stream is also linked to cancer progression. One study(2) explained that only about 10% of cancer cells possess the ability to spread; metastases being determined by a factor, dubbed CD36, which allows the cell to pick up saturated fat in the blood stream and form a protective coat around it, allowing it to pass round the body unseen by the immune system. 
The pre-occupation with a Ketogenic Diet(3) is built around a premise that cancer uses sugar to grow, but can't use Ketone bodies; so all you have to do is cut glucose and pour fat down your throat to beat it. But this is far too simplistic. For example, I spent almost 3 days with Professor Thomas Seyfried, the champion of the Ketogenic Diet, at the Children with Cancer Conference. I talked about how glutamate can fuel cancer cells (so don't touch bone broth) and how I am already full of glutamate (brain, muscles etc.) so how could I realistically expect cutting animal protein would cut cancer-feeding glutamate levels in my body, to to which he replied that there were 'still a few flaws to iron out in the Ketogenic diet!' On the subject of coconut oil, much loved by Ketogenic Diet fans, he said 'You wouldn't want to touch that. It's 90% saturated fat and will cause chronic inflammation!' (It does via the TMAO pathway - see below).
On the other hand, there is clear research that women aged between 50 and 70 who followed a colourful Mediterranean diet, consuming high levels of good fats, grains and vegetables and fruit, at the end of the 15 year study were free of 11 chronic illnesses and were 40% more likely to reach age 70.
The breast cancer study above involved eating higher levels of grains and colourful vegetables and fruit too. So, this is not just about fat consumption. It is about bad fat consumption - fats that promote LDL rather than HDL, and with it, higher inflammation and more immune system damage. And it is about whole grains, vegetables and fruit.
Saturated fat helps cancer grow and spread
Here we have taken just a few examples across breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer and ovarian cancer. But the message is clear: Consume more saturated fat and you will increase your risk of developing cancer, encouraging metastases and reducing your chances of survival:
  1. Levels of saturated fat consumed in your childhood (especial your teen years) can be linked to breast cancer later in life.
    Go to: Gosia Desmond and breast cancer linked to Childhood saturated fat consumption
  2. There are similar findings for prostate cancer:
    Go to: US NIH review of Prostate cancer risk and high saturated fat 
  3. Saturated fat intake is linked to both the risk of aggressive prostate cancer and fatal prostate cancer; whereas good fat like fish oil EPA reduces risk and mono unsaturated fats show no effect.
    Go to: Review saturated fat and aggressive and advanced prostate cancer
  4. In a large study by the World Health Organisation, Milk consumption was directly linked to mortality from prostate cancer (Hebert JR, Hurley TG, Olendzki BC, Teas J, Ma Y, Hampl JS.  Nutritional and socioeconomic factors in relation to prostate cancer mortality: a cross national study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1998;90(21):1637-1647).
  5. There is a similar link between saturated fat intake and ovarian cancer:
    Go to: Review of Ovarian cancer and saturated fat
  6. Epidemiology studies indicated a greater risk between higher saturated fat and/or animal fat consumption and colorectal cancer.
    Go to: Saturated fat and colorectal cancer risk
  7. In a study from scientists in Barcelona, high saturated fat levels in the blood of cancer patients were linked to a higher rate of metastases and a lowered survival. This was because of a receptor site CD36 on the membrane of some cancer cells.
    Go to: High Saturated fat in blood linked to higher metastases
  8. A high level of saturated fat intake was linked with a greater risk of lung cancer in smokers. Conversely a switch of just 5% from saturated fat consumption to monounsaturated fat like olive oil produced a decline in lung cancer risk of 16-17 per cent.
    Go to: Saturated fat intake increases lung cancer risk in smokers
Saturated fat causes inflammation and damages the immune system

At CANCERactive we are not against fat. Far from it. cholesterol and fat are essential to a healthy brain, healthy membranes and vitamin D production, just to name 3 benefits.

Our recommended ’Anti-Cancer Diet and Lifestyle Plan’ starts with the Rainbow Diet - a fusion of the colourful Mediterranean Diet and the French Paradox

Go to: The colourful Mediterranean Diet - probably the healthiest Diet in the world

The crucial issue is to keep saturated fat to 30% maximum of total. ’Good’, unsaturated fat (HDL) should be 70% to 30% LDL.  

One natural way of reducing ’bad’ LDL in the blood stream seems to be by supplementing with lycopene, the bioactive antioxidant found in tomatoes. In research, 25 mg of daily lycopene lowers overall cholesterol by 10% putting HDL up 2% and LDL down 12%.

Go to: Lycopene reduces cholesterol, especially LDL better than statins

There may be several other mechanisms by which saturated fats cause cancer problems. For example, saturated fat is inflammatory; and saturated fat impairs the immune system. 
Several  studies since 2015 have shown that certain saturated fats can cause more inflammation in the body. For example, a UCSF study showed that in both human and mouse cells, saturated fat caused a ’short-circuit’ in immune cells and produced an inflammatory response. A second study, this time from Imperial College London, showed that high saturated fat levels in the blood caused immune cells to migrate into the organs, exacerbating tissue damage and worsening inflammation. This continued until saturated fat levels declined to ’normal’. A third study showed that overweight people (with higher blood fat levels) had more inflammation and this caused higher levels of diabetes.

How might this happen? Saturated fat consumption, especially from cows’ dairy, has been reported several times to change the bacterial make-up of the gut microbiome to one that produces far larger numbers of inflammatory molecules in the gut and also circulating in the blood stream. A team from Chicago Medical School showed that mice with a genetic predisposition to colitis, were far more likely to get inflammatory bowel disease when fed a diet high in saturated milk fats. Such fats increased numbers of Bilophilia wadsworthia.

One of the reasons is that saturated fats are difficult to break down in the gut and require bile acids that contain sulphur. Most gut bacteria dislike sulphur and this limits their growth and division. But B. wadsworthia likes sulphur; it’s numbers increase to approximately 6 per cent of total bacteria, but its waste production is inflammatory and this also causes a negative immune reaction. In a healthy gut these particular bacteria are hardly present.
A similar system operates with coconut oil, as identified by The Cleveland Clinic and others. Your gut bacteria produce TMA in response to coconut oil. In turn the liver turns this chemical into TMAO, known to be highly inflammatory (and also produced from red meat, chicken fat, choline in eggs, and salami). TMAO has a large negative inflammatory effect in prostate cancer.


Diet as an integral part of your Complementary and Integrative cancer treatment programme
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