Wednesday 30 April 2014

So You Don’t Like Green Tea?

Green tea has been extensively researched with regard its ability to reduce the risk of cancer. Green tea is protective of many forms of cancer, but appears to be particularly beneficial against cancers of the gut. Green tea can reduce the risk of oesophageal cancer, colon cancer, gallbladder cancer and rectal cancer which suggests it works within the gastrointestinal tract at inhibiting the initiation of cancerous cell growths.

Drinking Green Tea

If green tea is beneficial at preventing cancer in the gut, it likely requires the drinking of green tea with meals. Some foods contain carcinogenic substances, or chemicals that can be converted to carcinogens, within the gastrointestinal tract. Inhibiting the interaction of these chemicals with gut tissue by chemically altering them is the likely way that green tea is effective at inhibiting gut cancer. However, green tea in bitter and some do not like the taste.

Green Tea Capsules

If green tea is not to your taste, there are other ways to benefit from the protective effects without having to drink the tea. Green tea capsules are available, and these can be a viable alternative. Research shows that the capsules retain the antioxidant effects of green tea following processing into capsules. Therefore taking green tea supplements instead of green tea, with a meal, makes sense to benefit from the protective effects.

Red Wine?

Green tea is a rich source of catechins, antioxidants that may be responsible for its health promoting effects. However, red wine is also rich in antioxidants, albeit different ones. The good news is that red wine also appears to be beneficial at inhibiting the formation of potentially carcinogenic substances in the gut. In fact this may be one of the ways that red wine protects the health of those who consume it regularly.

Red Wine Capsules

Of course some people may not want to, or be able to drink red wine. As with green tea, capsules are available that contain the antioxidants in red wine. This is often more convenient than drinking wine as concern does not have to be exercised over the alcohol content. Studies show that red wine capsules, usually standardised to contain resveratrol, are effective. However, for some the benefits of green tea and red wine are best enjoyed along with the pleasure of the drinks.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Does Mental Stress Cause Cancer?

Traditionally physical trauma was the predominant stress facing humans in their struggle for survival. Famine, cold, infection and heat placed a certain strain on the resources of the body, and over time this lead to physical adaptation. Those unable to adapt to such stress eventually surcumbed to the strain of living, and this was reflected in the low maximum age for humans throughout most of the known historical period.

Mental Stress

Improvements in housing and the agricultural revolution reduced the strain of physical burden. Since the war this physical strain has rescinded further. However, other challenges have now replaced the original physical stress that causes widespread disease and low quality of life amongst humans. While it can be argued that we are well adapted to deal with physical stress, the mental stress that has replaced it is perhaps less easy to deal with.

Mental Stress: The Disease Link

Increasingly, the mental stress of modern living is being linked with disease. Mental stress is difficult to deal with because often it does not have a known cause, is difficult to detect, and many cope by simply trying to ignore it. It is unclear how mental stress causes disease, but it likely relates to the release of similar hormones that are present during periods of physical stress. In particular mental stress is associated with increased release of adrenaline and cortisol.

Stress Hormones

Adrenaline and cortisol are released as part of the adaptation to stress. They allow the body to adapt to small deviations from the normal physiological and mental limits of the individual. However, if an outside stress is chronic, then cortisol and adrenaline remain elevated indefinitely, and this may initiate the disease process. In this way inflammatory pathways become activated, which increases oxidative stress and causes immune suppression.

Cancer And Stress

Oxidative stress and immune dysfunction are a recipe for cancer. Oxidative stress can increase damage to genetic material including DNA and this can increase the risk of initiating cancer. Because the immune system is required to eliminate cancer cells before they establish, immune dysfunction can increase the risk of developing cancer. Poor diet exacerbates the risk of mental stress induced cancer because it creates a concomitant physical stress.

Avoid Stress, Avoid Cancer

It is no secret that the key to a long life is to avoid stress. Both physical and mental stress can cause disease and strategies to avoid or deal with such challenges must therefore be practiced if health is to be maintained. Good diet greatly reduced the burden of stress because it provides the body with the nutrients needed to help it adapt to stressful situation. Relaxation techniques such as meditation are also proven to limit disease and produce healing effects.

Monday 28 April 2014

Why Does Being Overweight Increase Cancer Risk?

Being overweight increases the risk of a number of diseases. For example, it is well known that being overweight increases the risk of osteoarthritis. In addition, it is well known that the obese have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. This increased risk of disease has a common aetiology, in that being overweight is associated with oxidative stress. This oxidative stress can also increase significantly the risk of developing cancer.

Everyone Gets Cancer

Studies show that everyone develops cancer. Autopsies of people who have died from other causes reveal that most have small tumours that have not progressed to full cancer. This is because cells become cancerous all the time, but the body is able to kill these cancer cells using its own immune system defences. In particular, cancer cells can be programmed to commit suicide. In order for this to happen, the body requires conditions that favour healing and regeneration.

Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress is always present in the body. Usually it is kept in check by the presence of antioxidant, which can either be plant derived phytonutrients, vitamins or endogenous enzymes. When diet is poor oxidative stress increases. This tips the balance from a state of healing and regeneration into a state of disease. Under these conditions, diseases like cancer can develop because many disease are initiated by systemic oxidative stress.

Obesity And Oxidative Stress

Obesity is characterised by oxidative stress. The more weight that a person accumulates, the more oxidative stress they are exposed to. This explains the association between being overweight and disease. The exact reason as to why the obese suffer from increased oxidative stress is not fully understood. However, it likely relates to the consumption of a low quality diet high in processed foods and the absence of meaningful levels of antioxidant phytonutrients.

Diet, Obesity And Cancer

Poor diet is a primary driver of obesity. Poor diet also causes oxidative stress. The reason that the obese have an increased risk of cancer may therefore relate to their poor diet, which also makes them fat. In addition, once large amounts of fat have accumulated, fat soluble vitamins and phytonutrient antioxidants are sequestered in the fat tissue. The result is that being overweight exacerbates the oxidative stress of a poor diet, and this increases cancer risk.

Saturday 26 April 2014

The Top Five Anti-Cancer Nutrients

Plants synthesise a number of phytochemicals that are bioactive in humans. Some of these phytochemicals may reduce the risk of cancer if consumed regularly. Plants also contain minerals. Some of these minerals are required for correct metabolic function in humans. Eating plants absent of these important minerals can therefore increase the risk of cancer. Here is a list of 5 nutrients found in plants that may be particularly protective of cancer.

1. Selenium

Selenium is a cofactor for the cellular antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase. This enzyme is able to protect cells from oxidative stress and is sometimes referred to as the primary antioxidant in humans. Low intakes of selenium in the diet decrease glutathione peroxidase activity and this increases oxidative stress, a possible cause of cancer initiation. A study giving 200 micrograms of selenium per day to deficient subjects caused a reduction in cancer mortality by 50 %.

2. Green Tea

Green tea is a decoction made from the Camellia sinensis plant. Brewing the leaves for 5 minutes in boiling water produces a drink with high amounts of plant chemicals called catechins. These catechins are protective of cancer, especially cancer of the gastrointestinal tract. Because green tea may protect from carcinogens in food, it is advisable to drink green tea with each meal, as is the custom in Asian countries such as Japan.

3. Garlic And Onions

Garlic and onions contain sulphurous compounds that may inhibit cancer. The compounds are not found in the original plant material, but are created upon crushing, cutting, chewing or cooking. The chemicals released from this process are numerous, and their chemistry complex. However, regular consumption of these foods decreases the risk of cancer. This may occur through increased detoxification of carcinogens as well as a direct toxic effect on cancer cells.

4. Turmeric

The ability of turmeric to kill cancer cells in test tubes is well established. Epidemiology also suggests that those who consume turmeric have a lower risk of cancer. Turmeric is able to prevent cancer because the curcumoids in the spice can inhibit the growth of new blood vessels that are needed for cancer progression and may also protect DNA by inhibiting oxidative stress. Turmeric also has anti-oestrogenic properties that may explain its anti-cancer effects.

5. Brassica Vegetables

Brassica family vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts, watercress and kale. These vegetables contain glucosinolates, that are converted upon chewing to isothiocyanates and indoles. Both isothiocyanates and indoles are able to decrease the rate of conversion of chemicals into carcinogens in cells, and at the same time increase the rate of conversion of carcinogens to harmless metabolites. In this way they limit the exposure time of tissues to carcinogens.

Friday 25 April 2014

Carotenoids and Cancer

Consumption of plant foods is inversely associated with cancer. The exact reason for this is not known, but it is hypothesised that plant contain many chemicals that may confer health benefits in humans. The polyphenols are one group of plant chemicals, found in most fruits and vegetables, tea and red wine, that have known health benefits in humans. The carotenoids are another group that may be particularly protective of cancer.

Red, Orange and Yellow

Carotenoids are responsible for many of the red, orange and yellow colours in fruits and vegetables. Plants synthesise carotenoids and use them in times of low illumination to harvest light, and during times of high illumination to protect the cells from ultraviolet rays. Carotenoids are bioavailable in humans and increasing dietary intakes causes increasing plasma and tissue levels of most carotenoids.

Cooking Increases Carotenoid Bioavailability

Like all plant nutrients, carotenoids are present in plant cells. This is problematic because the cells of the plant are surrounded by a cellulose cell wall, and this cannot be digested by humans. Therefore if the cell walls are not mechanically damaged during chewing, the carotenoids are not able to be absorbed. Cooking plant foods breaks down the cellulose cell walls, exposing the carotenoids to the absorptive process.

Carotenoids And Cancer

The free radical theory of cancer suggests that oxidative stress, caused by free radicals, initiates cancer. Because carotenoids are antioxidants, this might be one way they help lower cancer risk. However, carotenoids may have other beneficial mechanisms by which they inhibit cancer cells. In particular, carotenoids can increase the communication between cells (gap cell communication), which increases the likelihood of the body detecting a cancerous cell and killing it.

Types Of Carotenoids

There are over 500 known carotenoids, but only some are commonly eaten in the human diet. The most common dietary carotenoids are beta carotene and lycopene which are found in spinach and tomatoes, respectively. While some carotenoids such as beta carotene can be converted to vitamin A in humans (provitamin A activity), others such as lycopene cannot. However, all carotenoids appear to have some antioxidant activity.

Synthetic Versus Natural Carotenoids

A number of studies have investigated carotenoids and found them to increase cancer rates in certain groups of people. For example, it is claimed that beta carotene increases lung cancer rates in smokers. While this may be true in a clinical setting such data does not translate to the real world. This is because studies tend to give high concentrations of a single carotenoid (usually beta carotene), often in a synthetic version.

Plant Carotenoids

However, plants contain mixtures of carotenoids. It is rare to find isolated carotenoids in foods because they often appear as mixtures, and combining foods increases the number of different carotenoids consumed. In addition the total amount of carotenoids is often much lower in plant foods compared to synthetic supplements. Therefore carotenoids should not be taken in isolated supplements, but only as mixtures in foods as nature intended.

Thursday 24 April 2014

The Western Diet: Carcinogenic

The Western diet is the normal diet of Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. It comprises mainly of refined grains and processed meats, is low in plant foods, and has a high omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratio. Increasingly, the Western diet is being implicated in disease. In particular, the Western diet is increasingly being seens as the causative factor in the high rates of cancer in developed nations.

Plants Protect From Cancer

Plant foods are protective of cancer. This is because there are chemicals in plants that have anti-cancer effects. Polyphenols, stilbenes and carotenoids have all shown anti-cancer effects in animal and humans studies. Epidemiological studies support a role for plant chemicals as a protective agent against cancer. Because the Western diet is low in plant foods, this explains the higher rates of cancer in developed nations.

Processed Meats

Processed meats are popular in the Western diet. The long shelf lives of processed meats is due to the addition of nitrites and nitrates that are added to the meat to prevent spoiling. When consumed, reactions in the gastrointestinal tract convert nitrites and nitrates to nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are carcinogenic and are thought to increase the risk of gastrointestinal cancers such as esophageal, stomach, colon and rectal cancers.

Omega 6 Fatty Acids

The Western diet contains too many omega 6 fatty acids and too few omega 3 fatty acids. The unbalanced ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids, which may be as high as 20 to 1, is a cause of inflammation and oxidative stress, and this may increase the risk of cancer. Traditionally, the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio was around 3 to 1, and at this ratio anti-inflammatory effects occur that may protect the individual from cancer.

trans Fatty Acids

The processed food that characterises the Western diet contains hydrogenated vegetable oil. As part of the process of forming this toxic oil, trans fatty acids are produced. These fatty acids are similar in shape to many natural fats in the diet, and so they interfere with the metabolism by inhibiting enzymes and transporters. This can result in metabolic dysfunction and disease. Increasingly trans fats are implicated as a causative factor in cancer.

Traditional Diets

Traditional diets are those historically consumed by populations. Traditional diets differ depending on the geographical region, but all share the common feature of containing no processed foods. This means that they are free from trans fats and processed meat, contain high amounts of plant foods, and have a low omega 6 to omega 3 ratios. This explains the protective effects of these diets against cancer and why those who consume them have a virtual absence of cancer.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Is Chocolate Protective Of Cancer?

Chocolate originated in Central America and was popularised in Europe by the Spanish after the conquest of the Aztec civilisation. Originally chocolate was drunk as a type of beverage, but when it came to Europe the chocolate we now know as a solid was created. Since its inception as a drink by ancient civilisations, the health effects of the cocoa bean have been understood. Recent evidence suggests that those benefits may include an anti-cancer effect.

Chocolate Polyphenols

Chocolate therefore has potential health benefits. The reason for this is likely the high concentration of polyphenols in the cocoa bean. The polyphenols in chocolate are very similar to those in green tea,. However, whereas the polyphenols in green tea are catechins, in chocolate they are polymer, made up of catechin units. Such polyphenols are called oligomeric proanthocyanidins, and they are also found in some berries, notably cranberries.

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate contains high amounts of cocoa. In some dark chocolate this can account for up to 80 % of the ingredients. This is important because it is the cocoa that contain the polyphenols and therefore the higher the cocoa content within the chocolate the more protective the chocolate may be. Milk chocolate replaces some of the cocoa with milk solids, and this dilutes the benefits of the chocolate considerably.

How Is Chocolate Protective Of Cancer?

It is not fully understood how polyphenols protect from cancer but it may relate to their ability to inhibit angiogenesis. Polyphenols may inhibit the release of growth factors required for the development of blood vessels by tumours (angiogenesis), and thus starve the tumours of nutrients. Alternatively, because polyphenols are antioxidants, they may prevent the initiation of cancer by inhibition of free radical damage to DNA.

Milk Chocolate

Dark chocolate appears to protect animals from cancer, particularly of the lung. However, milk chocolate is different. Milk chocolate contains high concentrations of sugar, and much lower levels of cocoa. Therefore not only are the benefits of the cocoa diluted, the presence of sugar may actually lead to health problems, particularly weight gain, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. Milk chocolate is therefore likely not protective of cancer.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Tea and Gut Cancer

Tea is a drink with wide ranging health benefits. Much has been written about the ability of tea to protect from cancer. Epidemiological studies show that tea is inversely associated with cancer, such that the more tea people drink, the lower their cancer risk. Animal studies also show cancer protective effect for tea. Many cell culture experiments confirm that tea is damaging to cancer cells. In act tea is probably the most researched food when it comes to cancer protection.

Not All Tea Is the Same

The benefits of tea are thought to stem from its polyphenol content. In particular, tea is a rich source of a group of polyphenols called catechins. Some or all of these catechins may possess anti-cancer effects in humans. However, only green tea is a rich source of catechins. Black tea does not contain the same high concentrations. This explains the better cancer protection afforded from drinking green tea in comparison to black tea.

Gut Cancer

When reviewing the literature regarding tea and cancer, it becomes clear that tea is particularly protective of cancers of the gut. This is interesting because it gives clues as to the mechanism by which tea might be effective against cancer. Cancer of the gut can develop from consumption of nitrites and nitrates in meat, that react in the gut and form carcinogenic nitrosamine compounds. When these interact with tissues in the gut they can initiate cancer.

Tea And Gut Cancer

Tea might be particularly effective against gut cancers because it inhibits the conversion of nitrate and nitrites to carcinogenic nitrosamine compounds. Vitamin C is a water soluble antioxidant, and is known to be able to inhibit this conversion. The catechins in green tea may therefore have similar effects as they are also powerful antioxidants like vitamin C. Green tea may therefore protect from cancer without needing to be absorbed into the body.

Red Wine and The Gut

The theory that green tea is beneficial at preventing cancer of the gut is supported by studies investigating red wine. As evidence about red wine accumulates it is becoming clear that it may have beneficial health effect in part because it inhibits the formation of lipid peroxides in the gut. This then lowers the risk of absorbing possibly dangerous chemicals and lowers the risk of initiating disease, particularly cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Best Way To Drink Tea

If the catechins in tea protect from cancer because of their presence in the gut, it makes sense to make sure the catechins are are present in the gut at times that carcinogens are likely to be formed. This means drinking green tea with meals, as is the tradition in Japan. As mentioned above, green tea contains more catechins than black tea and so green tea is preferable. However, even black tea offers some protection, so if green tea is not available, drink black tea with food instead.

Monday 21 April 2014

Is Red Wine Protective Of Cancer?

Red wine has been known to man for thousands of years. Ancient civilisations knew the benefits of red wine and wrote about its ability to cure ills. Modern science has corroborated these belief and shown that those populations that drink red wine have lower levels of total mortality than those who do not drink red wine. What is more the protection increases as red wine becomes more commonly drunk within populations.

White Wine Versus Red Wine

White wine differs from red in that the skin and seeds of the grapes are removed from the fermentation process fairly rapidly. In contrast red wine is fermented with its skin and seeds for longer. Apart from the obvious colour difference, this gives the two wines a rather different chemical composition. In particular, because the seeds and skin of grapes contain most of the polyphenol chemicals, red wine is a much better source of polyphenols than white wine.

Polyphenols are Protective Of Cancer

The free radical theory of cancer suggests that cancer is initiated by free radicals causing damage to DNA. This leads to the initiation of cancer, which can progress to for a tumour. Because polyphenols are antioxidants, they may interfere with the initiation of cancer by inhibiting DNA damage. In addition, polyphenols can regulate genes, and they may cause cells that have become cancerous to commit suicide (cell apoptosis).


Red wine is a highly complex mixture of plant derived chemicals. In fact, red wine is so complex, science has not yet fully characterised what exactly is in it. However, what is known is that red wine is one of the only sources of a polyphenol chemical called resveratrol. Studies show that resveratrol, and its metabolite piceatannol are potent inhibitors of cancer cells. The high concentrations of resveratrol may therefore explain some of the anti-cancer effects of red wine.

Red Wine Versus Other Alcohol

The fact that red wine is associated with a reduced risk of cancer but other alcoholic drinks increase rates of some cancers, suggests that the polyphenol content of the red wine might be responsible for its anti-cancer effects. As with all things, moderation is the key to the protective effects of red wine. Consuming red wine regularly, at an intake of 1 or 2 glasses per day appears to provide the best protection from disease, especially if it is drunk with food.

Sunday 20 April 2014

Still Not On The ‘D’?

Traditionally the recommended intakes of vitamin D for adults were based on the amount of cod liver oil required to prevent rickets in children. Nutritionally, such an archaic method of calculating the vitamin D requirement of an adult is obviously flawed. Although most medical recommendations for vitamin D are still based on this flawed estimation, nutritional studies have reappraised the required intake and found that it is much higher than previously thought.

RDA Versus Current Recommendations

The RDA for vitamin D in the United Kingdom is 200 IU for an adult. However, research from the nutritional literature suggests that intakes should be above 2000 IU for those not exposed to strong sunlight. Therefore in the winter months in high latitude countries, failure to take additional vitamin D will almost certainly result in a vitamin D insufficiency. In those who have particularly low levels, this could result in a deficiency.

Vitamin D And Cancer

Most of the evidence for the efficacy of vitamin D in cancer protection has come from animal studies and epidemiological (observational) studies. Accumulating evidence from these sources suggests that low levels of plasma vitamin D increases the risk of cancer. In particular, vitamin D intake may protect from breast, prostate and ovarian cancer, which suggests that the vitamin (actually a hormone) may be protective of sex hormone related cancers.

How Does Vitamin D Prevent Cancer?

Vitamin D is able to inhibit cancer formation when it is activated into its metabolite forms (25-hydroxyvitamin D and 1, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D). These active forms of the vitamin are able to interact with cellular receptors and have physiological effects. One of these effects is to inhibit the production of new blood vessels, a process called angiogenesis. Because tumours require these blood vessels, vitamin D can inhibit tumour promotion and progression.

Are Supplements Necessary?

Vitamin D is present in a limited number of foods. Apart from fish and their oils, not many commonly eaten foods contain much vitamin D. Although it is fortified into milk in some countries, this is not currently the practice in the United Kingdom. Therefore it is not possible to attain the 2000 IU of vitamin D per day recommended for optimal health. For this reason supplements are necessary to boost dietary intakes, in the absence of sunlight.

Saturday 19 April 2014

Citrus Fruit And Cancer

Citrus fruit is pretty cheap. However, it has not always been this way. Originally citrus fruits were the food of the rich and access to the benefits of citrus were not available to the poor. However, as efficiencies in agriculture have been found, the availability of citrus fruit has lowered its cost considerably. This is highly beneficial to those of modest income, because citrus fruit may offer protection from the development of cancer.

Vitamin C

Citrus is fruit is best known for its content of vitamin C. In fact most people know the story of the use of limes to prevent scurvy in ships, pioneered by the British. Vitamin C may be protective of cancer because it is a very important water soluble antioxidant. The free radical theory of cancer suggests that chronic systemic oxidative stress may cause DNA damage. This in turn may lead to the initiation of cancer. Antioxidants such as vitamin C may therefore protect from cancer.


As well as vitamin C, citrus fruit contains polyphenols. In fact citrus fruit is the only major sourse of the flavonoid sub-group the flavanones. Like vitamin C, polyphenols are important water soluble antioxidants. Therefore like vitamin C they may protect from cancer through inhibition of free radicals. However, polyphenols are also able to regulate gene expression and inhibit enzymes, and in this way they may have multiple mechanisms by which they can inhibit cancer.

Whole Fruit or Juice?

Most people consider fruit juice to be as healthy as whole fruit. However, fruit juice is not the same as whole fruit. In whole fruit, the sugar is contained within the cells, encapsulated by tough cell walls. When juice is made this sugar is released into solution. The upshot of this is that sugar from juice is absorbed more quickly and this causes the liver to become overloaded with nutrients. Eating whole fruit slows this process and is a far healthier alternative.

Friday 18 April 2014

Tomatoes For Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer rates are much higher in Western countries such as the United States and United Kingdom, when compared to Asian countries. This is thought to stem from the protective effect of genistein, an isoflavone found in soya beans. Asian countries eat fermented soya products such as tofu and miso, and this is thought to decrease the risk of sex hormone related cancers. However, countries in South America also have lower prostate cancer risk, but they do not eat soya.

South American Prostate Protection

Some other factor must therefore explain the lower risk of prostate cancer in the South American countries when compared to the West, as they do not eat soya beans. Researchers have addressed this problem and concluded that tomato might be the protective factor. Countries that eat high concentrations of tomatoes including those in South America, and possibly Spain and Italy, appear to have significantly lower risk of prostate cancer.

What Is Special About Tomatoes?

Tomatoes are a rich source of carotenoids, and are particularly rich in lycopene. Unlike many carotenoids, lycopene cannot be converted in humans to vitamin A. However, lycopene does have antioxidant functions and in this regard may decrease the levels of oxidative stress in the body. In particular, lycopene accumulates in the prostate tissue, and this may make the antioxidant activity of the carotenoid particularly effective at preventing cancer initiation.

How Else Might Lycopene Work?

Although lycopene is considered a potent scavenger of free radicals, the ability of lycopene to reduce oxidative stress may not be the way it prevents cancer. This is because although free radicals may be implicated in cancer, their role is not fully understood. However, lycopene is also thought to function by enhancing gap cell communication between cells, and this might increase the likelihood that cancerous cells die through apoptosis.

Some Like It Hot

The lycopene in tomatoes may therefore be beneficial to the health. However, as with all plant phytonutrients, the lycopene is trapped inside tough cell walls that cannot be broken down by human enzymes. Chewing releases the lycopene, but the amount released is not high unless food is chewed for long periods. Therefore cooking is the best way to release the lycopene from the tomato and make it bioavailable. Because lycopene is fat soluble, consuming cooked tomatoes with fat may be even better.

Thursday 17 April 2014

I Fish To Be Free Of Cancer

Much has been written on the detrimental effects of fatty acids. However, generally the science of fatty acids is simplified and twisted in order to suit particular agendas and marketing strategies. Most fatty acids are neutral in their effects on health A few, such as the trans fats, have negative effects. However, a growing list of potentially beneficial fatty acids are being reported, the most well known of these being the omega 3 groups of fats.

The Western Diet

The Western diet is bad new. It contains too much salt, too much sugar, too much processed meat and too much omega 6 polyunsaturated fat. In small amounts, the omega 6 polyunsaturated fat linoleic acid is beneficial to the health. In fact it is essential because it is required for correct cellular function. However, when ingested in high amounts, it inhibits the effects of another essential fat, alpha linolenic acid, an omega 3 fatty acid.

Omega 6 To Omega 3 Ratio

The Western diet then is characterised by a high omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratio. While traditionally this ratio would have been around 3 to 1, the ratio now may exceed 10 or 20 to 1. This ratio is important because when in balance the omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids produce beneficial health effects. However, as the ratio tips in favour of the omega 6 fatty acids, inflammation and immune suppression ensue.

Sources Of Omega 3 Fats

Alpha linolenic is an essential fatty acids belonging to the omega 3 family. Theoretically alpha linolenic acid can be converted in humans to all the other omega 3 fatty acids required for health. However, the conversion rate is slow in most people due to a genetic defect in the enzyme responsible, and high intakes of omega 6 fatty acids also inhibit this conversion. Therefore in order to take advantage of the health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids, other sources must be found.


However, fish eat alpha linolenic acid that is present in plankton and convert it into other omega 3 fatty acids. These fatty acids, docodasehaemoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, bypass the enzyme deficiency that humans possess. Ingestion of fish therefore supplies preformed omega 3 fatty acids that can be used by humans. Fish is therefore a far better source of omega 3 fatty acids that plant foods containing alpha linolenic acid.

How Do Omega 3 Fatty Acids Prevent Cancer?

Epidemiology shows that fish consumption and omega 3 fatty acids consumption reduces the risk of cancer. The mechanisms by which this occurs is not known, but may relate to the immune boosting effects of redressing the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio. Alternatively, omega 3 fatty acids may increase cell apoptosis in cancerous cells, thus preventing cancer promotion and progression, and thereby limiting tumour formation.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Does Aspartame Cause Cancer?

Many people assume that because something is for sale, it must be safe. This is of course true for alcohol and cigarettes which have never killed anyone. Sarcasm aside, the number of substances that have been allowed to market, and subsequently shown to be detrimental to the health, is numerous and well reported. consumption of trans fats for example is now known to be a primary cause of cardiovascular disease, despite previous assurances they were safe.


Aspartame is an artificial sweetener originally used in ‘diet’ drinks. However, more recently it has started to appear more frequently in other foods, often alongside sugar. Aspartame is claimed to help weight loss because while it is very sweet, it provides negligible energy, Therefore it can be used in place of sugar for those wishing to lose weight. However, concerns over the safety of aspartame continue to simmer under the surface, despite assurances that the compound is safe.

Aspartame And Brain Function

Irrespective of the ability of aspartame to cause cancer, mounting evidence and a huge number of reported medical cases show that aspartame affects brain function is some sensitive individuals. In particular, aspartame has been linked to seizures, anxiety, panic attacks, and other neurological problems. The exact reason for these reactions are not known but may relate to the breakdown products of aspartame, one of which (phenylalanine) may alter serotonin metabolism.

Animal Studies

Animal studies show that high intakes of aspartame cause tumours in rodents. In particular, researchers have reported increases in the number of lymphomas and leukemias in rats fed aspartame. Although many claim that animals experiments are not relevant to humans and that the doses fed to rats are higher than would be consumed in the average human diet, the fact remains that aspartame does cause cancer in rodents.

So What About Humans?

Human studies are difficult to perform because if aspartame causes cancer, it likely requires many years to manifest, and studies cannot run for this long. Therefore researchers must rely on observational studies to understand the effects of aspartame. Data from such studies shows that there appears to be an increase in particular types of cancer with aspartame consumption. In particular, aspartame may increase the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

How Might Aspartame Cause Cancer?

Aspartame is a molecule made up of phenylalanine, aspartate and methanol all joined together. Upon consumption, the three components are broken up and absorbed. We have already seen that the phenylalanine component may interfere with serotonin metabolism is sensitive individuals. However, it is the methanol component that may increase the risk of cancer because it is converted in humans to formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Berry Good Cancer Protection

Berries are known to have a number of health benefits if eaten regularly. This is because berries contain a number of chemicals that are thought to be bioavailable and interact with human tissues. These chemicals have been perhaps most extensively researched for their favourable benefits on blood pressure and their protective effect against cardiovascular disease. However, evidence suggests that berries are also protective of cancer.

Berry Phytonutrients

The exact way in which berries protect from cancer may depend on the type of berries eaten, as each berry has a unique phytonutrient profile. However, the two most important chemicals are thought to be the anthocyanin group of flavonoids and ellagic acid. While both of these compounds are polyphenolic antioxidants, they may have other effects in humans, including the ability to prevent new blood vessel formation in tumours.

Strawberries and Raspberries

Both strawberries and raspberries are good sources of ellagic acid. Regular consumption of these fruits may therefore confer protection from cancer. In strawberries the ellagic acid is present in the pulp of the fruit and this makes most of it available to absorb. However, in raspberries, the ellagic acid is protected inside the seed. Unless these seeds are crushed before eating, the ellagic acid is therefore not available to absorb from raspberries.


Blueberries contain a number of anthocyanins, which are polyphenolic compounds belonging to the flavonoid family of nutrients. Anthocyanins are responsible for the red, blue and purple colours in many fruits and petals. As well as being antioxidant, anthocyanins may inhibit angiogenesis, by inhibiting the production of the growth factors required for the formation of blood vessels. Of the anthocyanins delphinidin appears to be the most potent.

Frozen Or Fresh

Berries are summer fruits. That means traditionally for part of the year they were not available. Modern transportation now allows berries to be available all year round. However, out of season they can be expensive. Frozen berries are a solution to this problem, as frozen berries are cheaper but retain their anticancer chemicals. Picking your own berries that grow wild is also beneficial, and these can be frozen to allow year round cancer protection.

Monday 14 April 2014

Fight Cancer, Drink Tea

Those living in Asia have a lower risk of virtually all forms of cancer. This has interested scientist who have tried to understand why this is so. One line of reasoning suggest that the miso and tofu Asians eat may be protective of cancer because of the phytoestrogens it contains. However, another line of reasoning suggests the low rates of cancer in Asian countries may be a result of extensive tea drinking.


Tea is a decoction. This means it is made by simply adding it to water and allowing the contents to dissolve into the water. In this process a number of constituent within the leave enter the water and are drunk. The most well known substance in tea is caffeine, and this is responsible for some of the energising effects of tea. However, another component, the polyphenols may be the component responsible for the anti-cancer effects of tea.

Green Versus Black Tea

Green tea is made by a simple steaming process that maintains the green colour of the leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant. In contrast, black tea is made by fermenting the tea leave. This is an important distinction because in the fermentation process of black tea, the polyphenols thought to be responsible for the anti-cancer effect of green tea are converted to less beneficial substances called theaflavins.

Catechins Are Anti-Cancer Compounds

The polyphenols in green tea thought to be responsible for its anti-cancer effect are called flavan-3-ols. These are more commonly called the green tea catechins. They represent their own subclass of a group of well known plant compounds called the flavonoids. Of the catechins, epigallocatechin gallate is the catechin with the highest anti-cancer activity. However, other catechins may also play a role.

How Does Tea Prevent Cancer?

Epidemiological studies show that high intakes of green tea are associated with a lower risk risk of cancer, This is especially true for cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. It is unknown how tea prevent cancer, but a number of theories have been suggested and tested in studies. Most convincing is the evidence that the catechins in green tea is particularly epigallocatechin gallate, are able to inhibit the formation of blood vessels required to sustain a tumour.

Green Tea Practicalities

Not all green teas are the same. T an extent the way,the tea is grown, how it is prepared and how long it is stored can all affect the catechin content. These factors are generally outside the control of the individual. However, one thing that can increase the catechin content of tea, and which is under the control of the individual, is the brewing time. Brewing green tea for longer than 10 minutes significantly increases the catechin content of the tea.

Sunday 13 April 2014

Phytoestrogens And Cancer Prevention

Breast cancer and prostate cancer can be caused by sex hormones. In particular breast cancer may be caused by high levels of oestrogen. As well as being a sex hormone, oestrogen is a hormone that stimulates the proliferation of cells. It is in this role that it is believed that oestrogen may increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Reducing or blocking the effects of oestrogen may therefore be beneficial at preventing the proliferation of cancer.


Tamoxifen is the current drug of choice for women with estrogen responsive breast cancer. Tamoxifen is used because it has anti-oestrogenic properties. Because tamoxifen is a similar shape to oestrogen molecules, it can fit in the oestrogen receptor. However, it does not activate the receptor like estrogen, but instead sits in the receptor blocking the action of oestrogen to cause cell proliferation. In this way tamoxifen can reduce the impact of oestrogen in the body.


Any molecule with a similar shape to oestrogens may at to block its action. Many plant compounds have an oestrogenic structure, and as a result are referred to as phytoestrogens. Three phytoestrogens are of particular interest because evidence suggest that may decrease the risk of breast cancer when consumed regularly in the diet. These are genistein, daidzein and glycitin, all of which are found in the soya bean and belong to the class of chemicals called isoflavones.

Soya And Cancer Risk

Asians eat a lot of soya products including miso and tofu. Epidemiological studies show that Asians have lower rates of breast cancer than those living in the West, and some have attributed this protection to the soya they eat. The phytoestrogens in soya might act like tamoxifen, binding to the oestrogen receptor, but not activating a response. Instead the phytoestrogen blocks the action of oestrogen, lowering its effects in the body.

Genistein And Cancer

Cell culture experiments suggest that genistein is the most beneficial phytoestrogen in soya. Because of this some have recommended consuming genistein as an isolated compound to protect from breast cancer. However, this may be problematic because there is no safety data for consumption of isolated compounds from soya. If Asians are protected from cancer, it is because they eat whole soya beans and its products, not isolated compounds.

Traditional Soya

Recently soya has infiltrated the Western food supply. Soya is now routinely added to many food under the guise of textured vegetable protein, including food such as tinned tuna. Soya milk is also available and many choose to consume it. However, the benefits of consuming soya in these ways are not understood. Asians receive protection from eating their traditional products such as tofu and miso. For cancer prevention, it is important to therefore consume the same foods as in Asia.

Saturday 12 April 2014

Turmeric Kills Cancer

Turmeric is a yellow spice used in making curry powder. Derived from the Curcuma longa plant root, turmeric has been researched with regard its ability to improve health. Turmeric is a known in vitro antioxidant, and evidence shows that it may also act as a potent antioxidant in humans. Other evidence shown that turmeric has potent anti-inflammatory effects. This anti-inflammatory effect may explain in parts its ability to inhibit the promotion and progression of cancer.


Chemical studies on turmeric have attempted to isolate the compound responsible for its beneficial effects. In the course of this research, a compound called curcumin has been isolated and tested and found to possess many of the effects attributed to the whole herb. This indicates that curcumin could be the active ingredient. However, as with all plants it is likely that the effects come from a variety of chemicals and so curcumin may only be partly responsible.


The ability of curcumin to inhibit cancer promotion and progression in cell culture experiments may relate to its potent anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin is a cyclooxygenase inhibitor, and in this role can block one of the enzymes capable of producing pro-inflammatory compounds. Aspirin is a well known cyclooxygenase inhibitor, originally isolated from the bark of the white willow tree. This explains the ability of aspirin to reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer.

Cell Culture Relevance

While cell culture experiments have identified probable mechanisms of action of curcumin, controversy surrounds the usefulness of such experiments in humans. Humans are not plates of isolated cells of one type grown in artificial media, but complex interactive organisms that are composed of trillions of types of cell. Therefore the usefulness of cell culture experiments will always be questioned regarding the extrapolation to whole organisms.

Whole Herb or Curcumin?

Supplements of turmeric standardised for curcumin are available. However, the epidemiological evidence showing a reduction in the incidence of cancer have involved investigating populations that consume the whole herb. Indian people do not buy and consume turmeric supplements to achieve their protection from all forms of cancer, but they cook with and eat the whole herb. This is therefore the most logical way to achieve the known anti-cancer effects of turmeric.

Friday 11 April 2014

Selenium Insufficiency and Cancer

Ask most allopathic doctors and they will tell you that dietary supplements are not necessary because we get all the nutrients we need in our food. Unfortunately, many people believe this propaganda, and as a result develop ill health from vitamin and mineral insufficiencies. Many of the minor maladies and aches experienced as people age are actually these insufficiencies. However, most are usually completely unaware they are being affected.


Selenium is a trace mineral found in the soil as ground up rock. When plants are grown on the soil, selenium enter the plants by the roots where it is stored in the cells. When humans eat the plants they absorb the selenium and it became part of their own tissue. If the plants are fed to animals, and the animals fed to humans, the selenium is still passed from one organism to the other each time being incorporated into the consumers own structure.

Selenium And Health

Selenium is incorporated into a number of proteins called selenoproteins. One of these selenoproteins is an important antioxidant enzyme called glutathione peroxidase. Glutathione peroxidase is a water soluble antioxidant that protects the interior of cells from free radical damage. Cellular concentrations of glutathione peroxidase are related to the amount of selenium in the diet. As selenium intakes go up, antioxidant defences are boosted through glutathione peroxidase.

Poor Quality Soils

The problem is that the selenium that is meant to be in the soil is not there. This can be because some soils are naturally selenium deficient, or because the soils are over farmed. In the latter case, each yearly crop removes some of the selenium, and unless it is replaced the soil becomes depleted of minerals. Crops grown on such soils are deficient in minerals and the humans who eat those crops are also mineral deficient.

Cancer And Free Radicals

Free radicals are able to damage cells and their components. This includes the DNA that resides in the nucleus of the cells. Free radical damage to the DNA can change the programming of cells and cause them to become cancerous. This free radical theory of cancer was first conceptualised in the 1950’s by a man called Denham Harman. Since that time, scientific research has confirmed repeatedly the role of free radicals in the initiation of cancer.

Selenium And Cancer

The role of selenium as a structural component of the glutathione peroxidase enzyme suggest that it may play an important role at preventing cancer. In fact, research shows that consuming 200 micrograms of selenium per day is able to reduce the risk of cancer mortality by 50 %. This finding suggests that high numbers of people are selenium deficient, and are at significantly higher risk of developing cancer. Selenium supplements reverse this deficiency and lower the risk accordingly.

Thursday 10 April 2014

Myrosinase, Brassica Vegetables And Cancer

Vegetables of the brassica family include broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage, watercress, and cauliflower. These vegetables contain anti-cancer chemicals called glucosinolates. Studies show that high intakes of brassica family vegetables are protective of cancer, particularly cancer of the gastrointestinal tract. This is because glucosinolates may protect from the cancer effects of nitrosamines, which are formed from nitrates and nitrites in processed meat.


Glucosinolates are sulphur containing molecules in brassica vegetables. High intakes of glucosinolates may protect from cancer, but the glucosinolates do not actually have beneficial effects themselves. To be beneficial, the glucosinolates must first be converted into other chemicals called isothiocyanates and indoles. It is these products of the glucosinolates that are actually beneficial against cancer.

Brassica Vegetables And Detoxification

Isothiocyanates and indoles may decrease the risk of cancer because they decrease phase I detoxification, a process in the body that activates many chemical compounds to become more damaging. At the same time the isothiocyanates and indoles induce phase II detoxification, which rapidly converts the more potent cancer chemicals to harmless substances ready for excretion. This effect reduces the exposure of the body to carcinogenic compounds.


Glucosinolates must therefore be converted to isothiocyanates and indoles in order to have anticancer effects. This occurs through the enzyme myrosinase, that is also present in brassica family vegetables. Normally, the myrosinase is present in a separate cellular compartment to the glucosinolates. Chewing and cooking brings the enzyme into contact with the glucosinolates and causes the formation of indoles and isothiocyanates.

Chewing Or Cooking?

Myrosinase is brought into contact with glucosinolates through the action of breaking cell walls. This can be accomplished by chewing or cooking. Chewing mechanically breaks the walls whereas cooking causes disintegration through the action of heat. However, cooking is problematic because although it frees the myrosinase to interact with the glucosinolates, myrosinase itself is sensitive to heat and therefore degrades.


Overcooking brassica vegetables therefore causes deterioration of the myrosinase activity and a reduction in the amount of glucosinolates that are converted to the cancer preventive isothiocyanates and indoles. Chewing is a better method to protect the myrosinase, but raw brassica vegetables are not pleasant. Therefore steaming, which is less damaging to the myrosinase, but which allows adequate cell wall disintegration produces the highest amount of anti-cancer activity.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Nutrition Versus Medicine: Cancer

The current medical treatment for cancer is to wait for cancer to progress to a mature tumour and then to cut, slash or burn the cancer from the patient. Alternatively, toxic drugs may be used to poison any cancer cells. Often both treatments are given. This treatment protocol is highly ineffective for many sorts of cancers. Recurrence of cancers are high using this treatment protocol and as a result survival rates are low.

How Does Cancer Form?

Not many people realise that most people develop cancer. Autopsies of people who have died of diseases other than cancer show immature tumours in most individuals. Therefore some people seem to be able to prevent the progression of the tumour from the initiation stage through the promotion and progression stages of cancer. Research suggests that this difference is largely due to diet and lifestyle factors.

The Nutritional Way

In contrast to mainstream medicine, the nutritional approach to cancer is not to wait until cancer forms and then act. Nutrition is a preventative strategy. Research suggests that poor nutrition is a cause of over 30 % of all cancers, and so by eating a high quality diet, the risk of cancer can fall by a third without the need for expensive treatments. Of the nutrients that can prevent cancer, phytonutrients in plants appear to be particularly beneficial.


Plants contain a number of chemicals including polyphenols, glucosinolates, carotenoids, terpenes, sulphur compounds and saponins that can inhibit the growth of cancer. These plant chemicals have been extensively researched and combinations of these compounds are effective at preventing the initiation, promotion and progression of cancer. Phytochemicals therefore inhibit all stages of cancer formation, something that no drug can currently do.

Vitamins And Minerals

A number of vitamins and minerals may also be effective at inhibiting cancer. Traditionally such substances have also been obtained from plants in the diet. Supplementation of selenium for example has been shown in well designed clinical trials to inhibit cancer mortality and morbidity by 50 %. Vitamin D and vitamin C also show anti-cancer effects. Eating a high quality diet and supplementation with nutrients not present in the diet is therefore pivots in preventing cancer.


individually nutrients have small effects at preventing cancer. However, many of the compounds in plants have different mechanisms of cancer prevention. Therefore maintaining high intakes of a wide variety of such nutrients provides a variety of protective effects. Theses effects have shown to be synergistic. In other words, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This suggests that variety in the diet is an important component in preventing cancer