Originally published in March 2003 icon

The Tree of Life Book Cover


The "Eat-to-Beat Cancer" Diet


A scientific approach to a healthier life


Click here for further information.

By Chris Woollams


A Scientific Approach To A Healthier Life


Over the last two years, whether for my daughter, books or the magazine, icon have been researching the causes of cancer, and the steps people can take to beat it. We have looked into preventative measures and treatments from all over the world. From drugs to supplements. From radiotherapy to diets. And when it comes to the issue of diet, there is one undeniable fact. The same findings come up again and again and again.


Jane Plant, trying to cure her breast cancer, looked at epidemiology studies to find out which population did not have breast cancer and why. She alighted on the Chinese and concluded high selenium and no dairy were two crucial factors. She then went on to expound a broadly Eastern, organic vegetable, rice, fruit and soya diet.

Open quotesThere are definitely things you can add to your diet which will help protect you from some of the more harmful elementsClose quotes


She could have taken most South East Asian cultures; or macrobiotic diets; or the Bush people from the Kalahari; or vegetarians. Or she could have gleaned useful facts from Greece, France and other Mediterranean countries. Epidemiology studies are extremely clear on what constitutes a healthy diet.


Interestingly they also show that it is not simply a question of cutting things out of your diet - there are most definitely things you can add to your diet which will help protect you from some of the more harmful elements.


The Scientific Facts


Scientific studies on populations and their nutrition are so consistent that we ignore them at our peril, in the Western World.


For example, the Oxford Vegetarian Study is there for all to read. It concludes that meat eaters visit the doctor more often and have shorter lives than non-meat eaters; and goes into great detail about the negative effects of total animal fat, saturated fats and cholesterol consumed. Icon has reviewed the benefits of a macrobiotic diet with its emphasis on fresh, local, in season fruit and vegetables, and whole grains; next month we look at glycoproteins for which Gunter BlobeI won a Nobel Prize, the month after it is vitamin B-17. The same foods come up time and time again.

Open quotesWomen who consume the most soya have less breast cancersClose quotes


The recent findings of Cancer Research UK and Sloan-Kettering that women who consume the most soya have less breast cancers cannot be ignored, nor can the findings that the Asian population have up to a thousand times more protective genistein and other plant isoflavones in their blood streams.


The scientific evidence keeps pointing at the same factors. But...


Not All Fats Were Created Equal


The Japanese eat little fat; and have less heart disease and cancers than the British or Americans. The French eat large quantities of fat; and have less heart disease and cancers than the British or Americans.


Conclusion: Eat what you want; it’s speaking English that kills you!

The French paradox - higher consumption of fats and wine yet higher life expectancy than the British or Americans is a scientific fact. But all is revealed in looking at the nutritional science of the Mediterranean diet.




High monounsaturated to saturated fat ratio (e.g. olive oil, walnut oil, nuts and seed consumption in general).



Moderate alcohol consumption and with meals.



High consumption of fruits, vegetables (especially garlic and tomatoes).



High consumption of whole grains. (Fresh daily breads without preservatives)



High fish to meat consumption ratio.


The scientific fact is:

We know fruits and vegetables protect. We know garlic protects in many ways against cancer. We know red wine contains catechins and resveratrol, which aid your health. We know omega 3 in fish oils makes you healthier.

We have the scientific studies; we’ve read the Nobel Prize winning papers.

So you can eat animal fats as long as you eat other components in your diet to neutral ise them. You may be wiser to limit them but you literally can eat to beat cancer.


Western Governments Got It Wrong!


The defined wisdom in the West has been that you should eat a low fat, high carbohydrate diet. So women in the West go for their pasta lunches and sip cool Chardonnay. Usually made from nutritionally deficient refined wheat, most pastas are simply carbohydrate calorie stores. All these women are doing is creating an insulin surge in their bodies with the consequent destabilisation of all their hormones including their oestrogen levels. And too much carbohydrate consumption results in the excess energy being stored. As fat.


Open quotesToo much carbohydrate consumption results in the excess energy being stored - as fatClose quotes


Meanwhile the Okinawans and their long life expectancy have proven that calorie control (and a good intake of organic minerals) is vital. Even experiments on calorie restriction with animals have shown how responsive the human body’s endocrine system is, and how life expectancy leaps forward when you take in less calories. Not less fat; less calories.


But the truth is that most people are happily tucking into the refined "carbs", while simultaneously not cutting down on the fat either. Fat is nice, it has a certain texture on the tongue, sets off certain hormone responses and so you eat more. Fat is high in calories so its consumption makes you fatter. We also know fat is a wonderful solvent and animal fat dissolves the pesticides and herbicides from the fields, the excess hormones of the animal and many of its bodily toxins. And we eat lots of it.

So in America and Britain our environment and Governments give us a licence to eat carbohydrate, aided and abetted by an overabundance of dairy and animal fats, not surprisingly resulting in obesity levels of over 20 per cent in the Western populations. "Drinka Pinta Milka Day" has a lot to answer for!

But the French heart attack and cancer rates don’t reflect their increased girths. This is because total fat consumption per se is not the issue; it is the type of fat consumed that makes a difference to your body’s health.

Meanwhile we drink red wine with our meals only rarely (this helps to break fat up and contains certain anti-cancer factors), preferring beer or spirits (yet more carbohydrates), and we hate garlic (which also helps diminish the danger). The French, indeed the Mediterranean countries, eat many oil laden fresh nuts and consume vast quantities of olive oil. Fish oils are also plentiful in their diet.

But all of these are good oils; and actually, now the biochemistry is better understood, oils essential to your health. They may well even protect you from the bad oils.


There is no evidence to say we should be eating a low fat, high carbohydrate diet.

This is not simply my view; it has been echoed by people from the Harvard Medical School to Dr Contreras at the Oasis of Hope centre for cancer.

We should be eating a calorie-controlled diet of whole grains, which provide their calories over a longer period cutting out the insulin surge; whilst eating moderate supplies of certain fats and oils and a reasonable amount of fresh deep-sea caught fish.

And we should plan all our meals around organic vegetables and fruits and not simply choose the meat, fish or poultry first.


Exercise and Weight Control


In icon we have reviewed both these factors extensively. Recent re-analysis of forty year American data shows that people more than 4 kgs overweight (and that is almost everybody) lose 3 years off their lives. Above 12 kgs it is 7 for women and 5.8 years for men.


The Chinese ride their bikes and 60 million of them do T’ai Chi each day. Cancer Research UK has supported Bristol University, and their research team reviewed 54 global studies on exercise. The evidence is irrefutable. Regular exercise prevents cancer; and helps recovery. Exercise and weight control are two of the roots of the Tree of Life.


Organic Foods, Clean Water and Clean Air


Although there are ever increasing environmental toxins, you can go a long way to preventing problems by minimising the toxins, and particularly the pesticides you ingest. Pesticides have been linked to a variety of health problems. Many are oestrogen mimics; some have been linked to higher rates of myeloma in farmers, some even to child cancer increases.


Open quotesPesticides have been linked to a variety of health problemsClose quotes


If you buy only organic foods, it is illogical to drink or cook in contaminated water. The purest water (and some argue that it is too pure) is obtained through a reverse osmosis filter attached to your kitchen tap.


Buy one today. (Call 01280 815166 for details of the special offer featured in the January issue of ICON.

Clean air is a must. Already the normal oxygen content of 21 per cent, which you learned at school, can be reduced to 12 per cent in the dirtiest of cities. If you live in a city, or by a main road the breathing of diesel fumes is linked to cancer. Lowered oxygen intake leads to depression, and also causes cancer, as the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood may be up to 30 per cent reduced. Clean air, water and food are also the roots of the Tree of Life.


The Need For Supplementation


"Surely if you are going to eat healthily you don’t need supplementation", is the usual argument. "Vitamins are a ’waste of money’ and you should use the money in fresh fruit and vegetables".


Open quotesYou simply can no longer obtain enough Vitamin E from your
foodsClose quotes


This argument is simply facile and against scientific evidence. For example, you simply can no longer obtain enough vitamin E from your foods. Stress, anger, depression all have a negative effect on B vitamins, yet some of them like folic acid are crucial in DNA replication. Statistics repeatedly point to a lack of long-chain omega 3 in our bodies - yet a lack is implicated in virtually every cancer. Women with high omega 3 levels simply do not get breast cancer. Fact. But you would need quite a large daily intake of oily fish to achieve a desired level and that would add calories you do not need (and much fish now has mercury contamination). It is better to supplement.


UK crops are low in selenium and our diet is the worst in Europe for this vital mineral, which has many research studies showing its anti-cancer benefits. An organic source of calcium and magnesium would be advantageous. We are going to consign milk and dairy to the Stone Age; Western populations who consume the highest dairy have the worst levels of calcium in their cells and bones! And we feel dairy with its animal fats and IGF 1 is too risky, having links with many cancers. Better would be a supplement like coral calcium but exercise and green vegetables should see you through.

But anyway our lifestyles, especially if you work, mean you cannot eat well every day. Supplementation is also insurance. All anti-ageing health experts in the USA recommend supplementation. A good multivitamin and mineral supplement would help. Minerals combat acid bodies, a product of our modern environment.

Finally acidophilus is a good supplement to take, especially if you have had antibiotics in the past. Acid bodies and chlorinated tap water can knock out the friendly and essential gut bacteria -research has even proven that parts of their cell walls can kill off cancer cells.


Key Foods That Beat Cancer


Open quotesFish should be deep-sea caughtClose quotes


Whilst you can of course turn vegetarian, we offer that the ideal week would have three fish days, at least one plant protein day and the rest can be fowl or even game if you have to have meat. Fish should be deep-sea caught as coastal waters tend to be polluted and much fish (and shell-fish) is farmed there. Chicken and game should be organic and you should know your supplier.


Whilst we recommend you cut out dairy, we do not believe you should simply replace it with soya. Soya is quite high in fat and protein, and it is slightly defeating the whole object merely to consume pints of soya. In the Far East they use soya in moderation. Why not think this way too?

Olive oil, walnut oil, flaxseed oil; nuts and seeds - monounsaturated fats and oils protect. Nuts like almonds, walnuts, pecans, brazils and macadamia contain a variety of nutrients from salicylic (which has been found to reduce polyps in the stomach and the risk of certain cancers by 40 per cent - Mayo clinic), to B17; to fibre and selenium. Seeds like pumpkin and sunflower are excellent sources of vitamin E and selenium.

Garlic has a number of anti-cancer benefits; it should be eaten fresh and crushed. Onions and leeks have a lesser effect.

Ginger is another good anti-cancer agent, as are many natural herbs and spices like turmeric, which contains curcumin, linked to lower colon cancer risk.

Pulses (like lentils, kidney beans and chickpeas) provide plant protein in good levels; and they also raise the levels of protective phytoestrogens in the body.

Open quotesWhy not make your own breakfast cereals?Close quotes


Consumption of Japanese mushrooms like Reishi, Maitake and Cordyceps have been linked to decreased levels of cancer.


Whole grains are the final core to a good diet. Oats, barley, buckwheat, millet, if unrefined give up their energy slowly to the body and not in a quick, insulin driving spurt. Why not make your own breakfast cereals out of oats, psyllium seeds, nuts, raisins and seeds?


Enemies Of The Tree of Life


Apart from dairy, farmed fish and meats, all processed foods and preservatives, all fried foods (from salted bacon and sausages, to fast food that all release as many free radicals in the body as does smoking), pepperoni and frankfurters (linked to brain tumours), refined flour products, bread (organic or not, it contains sugar and salt in large quantities), fizzy soft drinks, processed fruit juices (the processin destroys the vitamin content and you are just drinking concentrated sugar with many of the supermarket products).


We would like to add all pickled food (increases stomach and oesophagus cancers in Japan), all chips, crisps, biscuits, crisp breads and branded breakfast cereals (because of the concern over toxic acrylamides), refined salt, sugar, caffeine, aspartame have been linked to possible cancers. High calorie-rich carbohydrate foods like refined rice, potatoes, pasta, and breads we would avoid too as they cause the unwanted insulin rush.

Open quotesCooking on barbecues is a risk you don’t need to takeClose quotes


Cooking on barbecues, using microwaves and baking at temperatures over 120 degrees C are risks you do not need to take.


Fruit And Vegetables - The Glory Of The Tree of Life


You should plan your meals around the vegetables, not around a piece of meat. Vegetables should be in season, locally grown, ripe and of course organic, although we admit this is easier in the South of France than in Britain.


It is often suggested that fruit should only be eaten on an empty stomach, for breakfast or before meals. The reason given is that it can "sit on top" of other foods in the stomach and ferment encouraging yeasts. If you have a healthy digestive system, with adequate good bacteria, this will not be a problem. There is no such view naturally occurring in the Far East or the Mediterranean diets.

Fruit and veg

Fruits and vegetables should primarily be alkaline-ash making; can be anti-cancer aids (e.g. pineapple and papaya both contain enzymes that weaken cell membranes); or good sources of B17 (like watercress, alfalfa, yams and bamboo shoots); or essential saccharides identified as glycoproteins (like radishes, aloe vera, or Japanese mushrooms). Some, like tomatoes and yellow and red peppers, can provide extreme levels of cancer beating factors like vitamin C, lycopene and carotenoids. They can also counteract the more problematic elements in the diet like animal fats. (Lycopene binds to these fats in the blood system and neutralises them).

It is interesting to note that whether the study is of Asian diets, foods rich in B17, or foods that are glycoprotein rich, the same beneficial foods come up time and time again (e.g. brown rice, garlic, watercress, alfalfa, radishes, apples, pears, etc.). Yams are not only a good source of B-17; they produce alkaline-ash and are a precursor to the adrenal hormone DHEA, which helps mop up toxic free radicals.

Science is showing so clearly that we can actually add things into our diets to balance some of the less desirable elements. You really can Eat-to-Beat Cancer!!

Book Reviews
CancerAcitve Logo
Subscribe (Free e-Newsletter)

Join Chris'

Join Chris' NewsletterSignup today for free and be the first to get notified on new updates.