The Ideal Anti-Cancer Diet for Cancer Treatment
By Mark Simon, CN, Founder and Director, NORI
“There is a rapidly growing appreciation and acceptance of the importance of nutrition in cancer treatment. Unfortunately, mainstream oncology places virtually no emphasis on nutrition as a therapeutic tool in cancer management. However, naturopathic physicians and integrative medical doctors are attempting to leverage nutrition to support effective alternative therapies. There is an enormous amount of confusion surrounding various dietary systems used in conjunction with cancer treatment. This newsletter is designed to help the cancer patient and heath practitioner better understand what constitutes an effective dietary strategy for cancer treatment. Many of the same principles apply to both cancer prevention and treatment. This newsletter is focused on cancer treatment (or management) which requires a more specific dietary pattern. NORI always recommends a 100% whole-food plant-based low-fat diet for both cancer prevention and treatment. Supplementation is not a major component of the NORI approach. Great care must be taken in selecting nutritional supplements because some may be tumor growth accelerating or protective of cancer cells.
An extraordinary opportunity exists to educate oncologists and cancer patients on appropriate nutrition to augment conventional treatments and to help lower the risk of recurrence. How this will occur is unclear but it is possible that NORI may be involved at some level. The oncologist must understand that it is important what one eats and that diet can be a powerful tool in cancer therapy. Of course, the medical doctor’s education in nutrition is quite limited and possibly biased due to pharmaceutical company interests. It is more common than not to hear these words from oncologists, “it does not matter what you eat. Go have a steak, ice cream or cheese burger”. Chemotherapy destroys appetite and kills intestinal cells so the advice is to fatten up the patient prior to treatment.
Nutrition plays a key role in supporting a robust immune system. However, cancer appears to progress completely independent from immune system responses. A nutritional strategy focused on building, boosting and supporting the immune system will unfortunately have absolutely no beneficial effect on tumor growth and control of metastasis. Immunotherapy drugs which unleash the immune system cause devastating effects on normal tissues while having marginal effects on tumors. Nutritional support of the immune system is important in prevention because some cancers are virally induced.
Cancer explicitly involves the regeneration of tissue supported by cancer stem cells. A tumor is a mass of rapidly dividing cells with a small population of cancer stem cells seeding new tumor cells. This rapid growth requires energy and nutrients. Some tumors grow more slowly than others while some are under the influence of powerful growth hormones and growth stimulating factors. Slower growing tumors are generally easier to treat and diet alone may cause tumor regression. For faster growing tumors, diet alone is not sufficient and chemotherapeutic agents must be used to directly kill cancer cells. Chemotherapeutic agents do not need to be toxic and harmful to healthy cells as those utilized in conventional oncology. In some cases hormonal blockers or modulators are necessary as in breast and prostate cancer. Diet plays a significant role in cancer treatment but it is rarely sufficient by itself as a complete treatment approach. For some early and very slow growing cancers, diet alone may be sufficient along with appropriate lifestyle modifications.
Poor diet does not cause cancer except in the case of colorectal cancer. Certain dietary patterns are tumor growth promoting while other diets may be tumor growth inhibiting. The more pant foods and fiber that is included in the diet, the less risk of cancer and less tumor growth promotion. Colorectal cancer is caused by a chronically imbalanced gut microbiome. Healthy gut microbes are supported by high fiber plant foods while unhealthy but microbes are encouraged by animal proteins including dairy and eggs.
Does the human body actually have built-in cancer fighting mechanisms? It appears not and from an evolutionary perspective, cancer is a condition caused by our modern lifestyle, chemically oriented agricultural practices and toxic medicines. Cancer, in most cases, is environmentally induced or triggered by viruses. So if the body can not fight cancer, then how can one overcome it? How can nutrition play a key role in cancer treatment?
An established cancer is not due to any ongoing nutritional deficiencies. However, low vitamin D and selenium appear to be correlated with higher incidence of cancer. Selenium is essential for cancer prevention along with other factors like vitamin D and possibly naturally occurring vitamin E. For an established cancer, supplementation will most likely have very little benefit. What will have benefit is the balance of macronutrients which means how much fat, protein and carbohydrate is consumed. The point here is that supplementation with multivitamins and individual nutrients will likely have very little impact and can be potentially counterproductive. High dose supplements of the right form are an exception where the plasma level is brought up to a therapeutic range. The best example of this is selenium in the form of sodium selenite. Sodium selenite is a powerful pro-oxidant that selectively kills cancer cells when administered within a specific dosage range.
Cancer cells are clearly metabolically distinct compared to normal cells. Here lies an opportunity to target these metabolic abnormalities to either kill or significantly weaken cancer cells. Targeting cancer cell metabolism with diet and natural agents such as citric acid can be a highly effective strategy for long term tumor growth management.
Sugar seems to be the major focus among most alternative doctors and nutritionists. Sugar has become an evil word and even carbohydrate has become the villain in the fight against cancer. Our cells run on sugar so how could this innocent nutrient become so feared and blamed for the onset and progression of cancer? The same applies to diabetes. Is sugar just an innocent bystander while other dietary factors are at play?
What nutrients do cancer cells require most to grow, divide and proliferate? Amino acids are essential for cancer cells to synthesize proteins to make new cancer cells. Methionine is the most essential amino acid required by cancer cells and the science tells us that depriving cancer cells of methionine causes them to die. Other amino acids are also critical for the stability and growth of cancer cells. Normal cells air well adapted for short term low availability of amino acids. Normal cells have intact and operational cell cycle regulation where cancer cells do not. Cancer cells ignore cell cycle checkpoints and continue through growth and division without essential components in place. This illustrates the differential nutritional requirements and sensitivity between normal cells and cancer cells.
Cancer cells generate energy from glucose, glutamine and fatty acids so it is challenging to shut off all of these sources of fuel simultaneously without adversely affecting normal cells. The NORI approach is not designed to starve cancer cells of fuel for energy but instead it starves cancer cells of building blocks for growth and regeneration of new cancer cells. There are potentially safe natural compounds that can interfere with the cancer cell’s ability to metabolize glucose. One of these agents is citric acid which NORI is exploring as an effective glycolysis inhibitor.
Any dietary approach to cancer treatment should be highly targeted towards differential nutritional requirements between normal cells and cancer cells. The ketogenic dietary approach involves limiting the availability of glucose to cancer cells which theoretically would lower their energy and trigger apoptosis. A therapeutic ketogenic diet is composed of 95% fat, no carbohydrates and very little protein. This is not very palatable or sustainable. Furthermore, blood glucose does not drop to zero and cancer cells metabolize high amounts of glutamine for energy. Ketogenic diets based on animal products do not work, promote tumor growth and are detrimental to overall health.
NORI does not support the Gerson dietary program and other diets such as the Budwig diet. These diets have very little if any scientific support. Gerson therapy is useful because it eliminates all animal products but it does not appear to regress tumors for common cancers.
Essential Attributes of an Ant-Cancer Diet
• Limits Availability of Nutrients Required for Tumor Growth and Proliferation
Inhibition of new blood vessel generation necessary for tumor growth
Limits invasive potential of tumor
Clearing of the lymphatic vessels, colon and elimination of stored toxins
•Lowers Key Tumor Growth Factors
Reduction in IGF-1 and insulin
• High in Proteolytic Enzymes
Proteolytic enzymes can help break down the thick protein layer protecting cancer cells
• Provides a Wide Array or Potentially Beneficial Phyto-chemicals
• Limited Antioxidant Potential
Antioxidants are essential for cancer cell survival because cancer cells are under enormous oxidative stress. An excess intake of antioxidants may be protective of cancer cells.
The NORI diet meets all of the above attributes and therefore is a powerful dietary platform to work from in treating all forms and stages of cancer.”
Help Stop Cancer
Fighting Cancer with Nutrition