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Nutrition and Cancer

Can we eat to help prevent cancer?

· health,diet,Cancer


Cancer is caused in a many various ways, some almost unavoidable, including chemical exposure, viruses, stress, radiation and perhaps the easiest to manage -  nutrition. Research by scientists in different fields including T. Colin Campbell, PhD, William W. Li, MD, Dean Ornish,MD and Rui Hai Liu, MD, PhD conclude that lifestyle factors, and in particular a whole food plant based diet can certainly prevent and even reverse cancer during the promotion stage.

 The promotion stage of cancer is when cells with damaged DNA produce clones that in turn form clusters, or foci. Foci can readily be monitored in the laboratory.

In work done by T. Colin Campbell in the ‘90s (1) cancer foci growth was literally turned on and turned off by switching the diet of lab rats from one with 20% protein to 5% protein and back again. The high protein (animal protein) diet always lead to an increase in cancer growth and the low protein reversed the growth. These findings correlated with Campbell’s earlier work in China known as The China Study (2) an epidemiological study exploring how diet and other environmental factors affected chronic disease. This study found that counties with the lowest rates of disease (including cancers) corresponded with counties with the lowest animal food consumption.

Further to this work done by William W. Li, MD into the role of the blood vessels has revealed that eating a whole food plant based diet is just as good as expensive, and potentially dangerous, drugs to maintain optimal angiogenesis. Optimal angiogenesis in turn helps to maintain optimal human health including the effective treatment of cancer. (3)

Dr Dean Ornish MD has shown through simple lifestyle intervention a 70% decrease in cancer growth in his human population studies on prostate cancer. These results were achieved through a combination a low fat vegetarian diet, exercise, stress management and social support. (4)

The usual scientific response to these exciting findings is to make veggies more marketable by trying to replicate their benefits through supplements. But there is no substitute for the real thing. Rui Hai Liu, MD, PhD in fact tested this by comparing the affects whole food vs an isolated nutrients on cancer foci. Dr Rui found that although the apple had a fraction of vitamin C the combined effect of the whole food had 263 times the potency as the isolated vitamin C (5)

In summary, scientists from a range of fields are in agreement that a whole food plant based diet is an effective, and if not the most effective (and safe) treatment of cancer in its promotion stage of development. Simply eating the optimal human diet – one based on whole plant foods will drastically reduce the chance of cancer developing in the first place and will also certainly help manage or even reduce existing cancer, especially during promotion.

  1. (1) Youngman LD, Campbell TC. High protein intake promotes the growth of preneoplastic foci in Fischer #344 rats: evidence that early remodeled foci retain the potential for future growth. J. Nutr. 1991; 121.
  2. (2) Campbell TC, Campbell TM. The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health. Dallas, TX, BenBella Books. 2006.
  3.  (3) Li WW, Li VW, Hutnik M, Chiou AS. Tumor angiogenesis as a target for dietary cancer prevention. J Oncol. 2012; 2012: 1-23.
  4. (4) Ornish D, Weidner G, Fair WR, Marlin R, et al. Intensive lifestyle changes may affect the progression of prostate cancer. J Urol. 2005; 174: 1065-1070.
  5. (5) Boyer J, Liu RH. Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits. Nutr J. 2004; 3(5).


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