Cancer Fighting Foods: Research Strides Ahead of Western Doctors
What we can learn from the latest scientific research into cancer fighting foods?
Food is often reported as being one of the causes of many different types of cancer, an example of this includes the strong link between bowel cancer and processed meat consumption1. Research has strongly shown that a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes can help to lower your risk of getting cancer2.
But what if you already have cancer?
Knowing which types of food may have contributed to the cause of your cancer allows you to remove this food group from your diet, but playing the blame game is unhelpful and often pointless. Doctors and Oncologists tackle cancers with increasingly sophisticated chemotherapy drug regimes that can be increasingly tailored to each individual case. Radiotherapy and surgery are also common treatment routes. Our ability to treat cancer is improving every day and millions of pounds are poured into cancer research every year. But while the drug industry is tipping all of its money into pharmaceutical cures (for obvious reasons), other researchers are looking at more natural ways of helping to combat cancer, including further studies on cancer fighting foods.
Please note that this article explores ways in which you can help to complement your current and recommended cancer treatments. You must discuss any significant changes in your diet with your doctor or oncologist.
Food that fights cancer
The food that we eat is intrinsically linked to our everyday health. It can make us ill if we get the balance wrong, but equally, with the right knowledge, it can help us to heal. Our diet is also one of the easiest things that we can address in our lives, something over which we do actually have some control.
Turmeric is a spice often used in Asian cooking. The main active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin and it is this compound that is of interest to cancer researchers. Curcumin has been shown to have anti-cancer properties in in-vitro studies (studies on cells outside of the body). In these studies, curcumin has been shown to be able to stop the growth of existing cancer cells and prevent new cancerous cells from forming3.
Poor uptake of curcumin by the gut is considered to be a significant hurdle in the dietary consumption of turmeric for cancer treatment and prevention4. A small study has shown however that the uptake of curcumin is significantly increased when consumed with a compound called piperine, which is found in ordinary black pepper. In this study, piperine was shown to increase the uptake of curcumin by the gut by a massive 2000%5.
So if you want to take advantage of the cancer fighting properties of turmeric, research indicates that you should consume it in combination with black pepper.
Cruciferous vegetables are part of the brassica family and include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and turnip. Vegetables from this family contain glucosinolates, which when broken down following consumption, forms the biologically active compounds indoles, nitriles, thiocyanates and isothiocyanates.
Indoles and isothiocyanates have been studied extensively in both in vitro cell studies and in vivo animal models. Results from these studies have consistently shown that both of these compounds stop cancer cells from growing and forming, they induce apoptosis (cell suicide), inactivate carcinogens (cancer causing agents) and have anti-inflammatory effects6. Indoles and isothiocyanates have been shown to be effective in rats and mice in inhibiting cancer development; positive results have been shown in bladder, breast, lung, liver, colon and stomach cancers7, 8.
Researchers have identified a compound called apigenin, which is found in high levels in celery that has cancer fighting properties. In an in-vitro study, apigenin killed up to 83% of lung cancer cells9, an in-vivo study in mice showed apigenin to be effective in preventing the metastasis of ovarian cancer cells10. A 2010 review of research studies on apigenen showed this compound to have an anti-cancer effect most cancer cells including those in breast, cervical, colon and thyroid cancer11. As well as being present in celery, this bioactive substance is also found in parsley, chamomile and celeriac.
How you can benefit
All of these compounds need to be further researched to assess their cancer fighting properties in humans. In vitro studies have proven these substances to kill and/or inhibit growth of cancer cells. Studies are now in progress to determine how effective they are at producing this effect in the human body; these studies have not produced enough conclusive results yet but they are looking increasingly promising for use as anti-cancer agents.
It is important to note that until multiple, double-blind studies have been carried out on humans, western doctors will not recommend nutrition as a way to complement modern pharmaceutical or surgical treatment.
However for people living with cancer right now, time is of the essence. Do not wait for western medicine to gather the proof that it needs regarding the anti-cancer properties of these foods. Since turmeric, cruciferous vegetables and celery are all part of a normal, healthy diet, anyone diagnosed with cancer could stand to benefit from incorporating them into their daily diet, alongside their physician recommended treatment plans and medication.
Juicing is a great way to consume the highest concentration of anti-cancer compounds. It is important to make your juice with well washed, raw vegetables. Celery has a very high pesticide load so if possible you should choose organic varieties for optimal health.
Daily Anti-Cancer Juice
- 4 oranges (peeled)
- 2 stalks of celery
- 1/3 red cabbage
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ¼ tsp black pepper
Read more about which foods fight cancer, and which foods promote cancerous growth in the book ‘Food to Fight Cancer: What Your Doctors Aren’t Ready to Tell You‘ by Sonia Nicholas.
About the author:
Sonia Nicholas is a Biomedical Scientist and Freelance Clinical Science Writer & Editor. She has been working in the field of clinical science for fifteen years.
Sonia believes that everyone can improve their health by eating a clean diet – a claim that scientific research increasingly supports. Sonia also believes that healthy, clean eating is accessible to all and doesn’t have to be an expensive lifestyle choice.
All of the information on The Green Apple Club website is evidence based and fully scientifically referenced.
Article tags: Cancer fighting foods, food that fights cancer