Can We Eat to Starve Cancer?



“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” -Hippocrates

This age-old saying has never rung more true than in today’s world where advances in medicine are continuously coming back to the most basic form of treatment: the food that we eat. This is yet again the case with the medical revolution called angiogenesis, which is based on the process that our body uses to grow blood vessels.

At a TED talk from February of 2010, Dr. William Li, the head of the Angiogenesis Foundation, discussed anti-angiogenesis therapy as a new way of treating cancer and other diseases:

Dr. Li explains that, “the human body is packed with blood vessels, 60,000 miles worth in a typical adult. Blood vessels in the liver form channels to detoxify the blood; in the lung they line air sacs for gas exchange; in muscle they corkscrew so that muscles can contract without cutting off circulation; and in nerves they course along like power lines, keeping those nerves alive. The body has the ability to regulate the amount of blood vessels that are present at any given time, such that, when we need a brief burst of blood vessels, the body can do this by releasing stimulators, proteins called angiogenic factors that act as natural fertilizer and stimulate new blood vessels to sprout. And when those excess vessels are no longer needed, the body prunes them back to baseline using naturally occurring inhibitors of angiogenesis.”

“When there are defects in the system where the body can’t prune back extra blood vessels or can’t grow enough new ones in the right place at the right time, angiogenesis is out of balance, and a number of diseases present themselves. For example, insufficient angiogenesis (not enough blood vessels) leads to wounds that don’t heal, heart attacks, legs without circulation, death from stroke, nerve damage. And on the other end, excessive angiogenesis (too many blood vessels) drives disease, and this is seen in cancer, blindness, arthritis, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease. Many major diseases affecting more than a billion people worldwide, that all look on the surface to be different from one another, but all actually share abnormal angiogenesis as their common denominator. This realization is allowing us to reconceptualize the way that disease are approached by controlling angiogenesis.”

“Angiogenesis is a hallmark of cancer, every type of cancer. Cancers don’t start out with a blood supply. Instead, they start out as small, microscopic nests of cells that can only grow to one half a cubic millimeter in size (the tip of a ballpoint pen). Then they can’t get any larger because they don’t have a blood supply, so they don’t have enough oxygen or nutrients.In fact, we’re probably forming these microscopic cancers all the time in our body. The body’s ability to balance angiogenesis, when it’s working properly, prevents blood vessels from feeding cancers. This turns out to be one of our most important defense mechanisms against cancer. In fact, if you actually block angiogenesis and prevent blood vessels from ever reaching cancer cells, tumors simply can’t grow up. But once angiogenesis occurs, cancers can grow exponentially. And this is actually how a cancer goes from being harmless to deadly. Cancer cells mutate and they gain the ability to release lots of those angiogenic factors, natural fertilizer, that tip the balance in favor of blood vessels invading the cancer. And once those vessels invade the cancer, it can expand, it can invade local tissues. And the same vessels that are feeding tumors allow cancer cells to exit into the circulation as metastases. And, unfortunately, this late stage of cancer is the one at which it’s most likely to be diagnosed, when angiogenesis is already turned on and cancer cells are growing like wild.”

“A new approach is antiangiogenic therapy, or treating cancer by cutting off the blood supply, and it’s completely different from chemotherapy because it selectively aims at the blood vessels that are feeding the cancers. Tumor blood vessels are unlike normal, healthy vessels we see in other places of the body: They’re abnormal; they’re very poorly constructed; and, because of that, they’re highly vulnerable to treatments that target them.In effect, when we give cancer patients antiangiogenic therapy, the tumor is being starved.”

“Traditional treatments target cancer when it’s already established and, often times, it’s already spread or metastasized. Once a disease progresses to an advanced stage, achieving a cure can be difficult, if not impossible. Could the answer to cancer be preventing angiogenesis, and beating cancer at its own game so it could never become dangerous?”

“Diet accounts for 30 to 35 percent of environmentally caused cancers. What could people add to their diet that’s naturally antiangiogenic, that could boost the body’s defense system and beat back those blood vessels that are feeding cancers? Each food can have a different antiangiogenic potency. Why not select the one that’s most potent for preventing cancer. Combinations of foods can be more potent than either one alone. This means there’s food synergy.”

“What is the evidence in people that eating certain foods can reduce angiogenesis in cancer? Well, the best example known is a study of 79,000 men followed over 20 years, in which it was found that men who consumed cooked tomatoes two to three times a week had up to a 50 percent reduction in their risk of developing prostate cancer. Now, we know that tomatoes are a good source of lycopene, and lycopene is antiangiogenic. But what’s even more interesting from this study is that in those men who did develop prostate cancer, those who ate more servings of tomato sauce actually had fewer blood vessels feeding their cancer. So this human study is a prime example of how antiangiogenic substances present in food and consumed at practical levels can impact on cancer.”

“Antiangiogenesis therapy can affect consumer education, food services, public health and even the insurance industry. And, in fact, some insurance companies are already beginning to think along these lines. Everybody could benefit from a healthy diet based on local, sustainable, antiangiogenic crops. Adipose tissue, fat, is highly angiogenesis dependent. And, like a tumor, fat grows when blood vessels grow. Therefore, the antiangiogenic approach for cancer prevention may also have an application for obesity.”

What we eat is really our chemotherapy three times a day. Many foods ingredients are known to have cancer-fighting properties. But all foods are not the same. The following are some of the best known cancer-fighting food and drink at the current time.

Fruit: apple, apple cider, blueberries, cranberries, pomegranate, tomato

Herbs & Spices: basil, garlic, nutmeg, sesame seeds, thyme

Vegetables: cabbage, collard greens, fennel, garlic, kale, onion, sweet potato

Oils & Sauces & Condiments: cocoa powder, olive oil, soy sauce

Seafood: sardines, shrimp and prawn

Meat Products: dark meat turkey

Legumes & Nuts & Beans: edamame, miso, natto, tofu

Grains & Seeds & Flours: sesame seeds

Beverages & Soups: apple cider, cocoa powder, miso, soy milk

At Heal n Cure we believe in the healing power of food. Instead of relying solely on prescription medication to treat a symptom of illness, we nourish the body from the inside out so we can reverse disease. Every patient in our INSPIRE™ Core Wellness program is prescribed a tailored nutrition plan that the physician develops to treat exactly what is going on in each patient’s body. Our lifestyle educator then helps implement this nutrition plan in a way that leaves our patients feeling confident that they can successfully integrate the plan into their daily lives. This combination of personalized care and support is the reason why our patients achieve and exceed their health goals.