Tag Archives: cancer prevention

Reducing Your Risk of Cancer – 3 things you should include in your diet.

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Did you know that an estimated 1,529,560 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2010? That’s 4,190 new cases per day!

Unfortunately, we have become acutely aware that there are many things in our world that are carcinogenic and inevitably will find more things in the future.  Mutagens come from a variety of places including tobacco smoke and environmental pollutants.  Popular herbicides contain glyphosphate, a compound that depresses the function of important enzymes that are essential for detoxification.  The number one cancer causing mutagen, however, is our diet.  For example, the frying, baking, and roasting of carbohydrate rich foods produces acrylamide, which is a known cancer causing agent in animals.

Everyday we are surrounded by these mutagens that have the potential to cause a genetic mutation within our own cells resulting in a mistake in our genetic code.  According to the New England Journal of Medicine, “Cancer results from the accumulation of mutations in the genes that regulate cellular proliferation.”  As these mutations begin to accumulate the cells can no longer regulate their own production and begin to grow out of control.  They no longer demonstrate the innate ability of apoptosis.  Apoptosis is defined as programmed cellular death.  Healthy cells that develop abnormalities are programmed to destroy themselves when mistakes are made.  Cancer cells, because of excessive mutations, lose this ability and continue to reproduce despite the fact they are causing damage.

The human body has a very unique and effective way of dealing with chemicals that it may come into contact with.  This detoxification system has two phases within which it works.  They are aptly named Phase I and Phase II.  This system is able to detoxify even the most potent of chemicals, including pesticides and other foreign compounds found in the environment.  Although these systems are very complex, we will go over them briefly and broadly.

The molecules produced in Phase I may be even more toxic than the initial chemicals because the molecular groups that are added to them by the body’s detoxification system are very reactive.  This allows these molecules to act as free radicals in the liver.  This is not problematic as long as Phase II is working well. The Phase I molecules are usually quickly converted to harmless molecules for excretion in the urine or bile by Phase II.

At this point you may be asking, “Why do I need to worry about it if Phase II acts so quickly?”  For one, the process is slowed with age and some people metabolize slowly while others metabolize much faster.  This shows the need for nutritional supplementation which maximizes the efforts of Phase I and II and reinforces the idea that we should provide the liver with ample amounts of antioxidants.

So the question remains.  What can you do to help protect yourself from dangerous mutations that may lead to cancer in the future?  Many nutrients have been found to be essential cofactors for the detoxification system, but three have recently been found to directly enhance its activity.

Curcumin

The first is curcumin.  It is a nutrient that is derived from turmeric.  Turmeric has been used for centuries throughout India and Asia for a myriad of different maladies ranging from upset stomach to arthritis.  It has also been shown to reduce total cholesterol and inhibit LDL oxidation.

In a study at India’s Panjab University, researchers found that curcumin inhibited mutagenicity by as much as 80% against mutagens in cooked foods.  Curcumin has also been shown not only to be preventative but also helps reduce the progression of cancer.  Curcumin appears to act by boosting the activity of glutathione S-transferase which is an important Phase II enzyme.

Curcumin has also been shown to be a potent antioxidant.  Antioxidants are important because they scavenge free radicals throughout the system.  Free radicals act on the body on a cellular level producing damage in whatever they come in contact with.

Chlorophyllin

Another potent inhibitor of mutagenicity is chlorophyllin.  This is derived from the green pigment in plants called chlorophyll.  Chlorophyllin is beneficial because it is water soluble and is easily transported in the blood.  It has been shown to inhibit mutations in bacteria when placed in a Petri dish with known mutagens.

Although its precise mechanism of action is unknown, it is thought to act as a powerful antioxidant as well.  In one study, chlorophyllin was shown to promote apoptosis in human colon cancer cells.  This is important because it is thought that the alteration of the process of apoptosis is one mechanism by which cancer continues to reproduce.  Chlorophyllin is has also been shown to be heat stable which is important because it will maintain its powerful properties after ingested.

Broccoli Extract

The third powerful nutrient is broccoli extract.  That’s right. Mom knew more than she thought when she was force feeding you broccoli and cod liver oil!  According to an article in Life Extension magazine, “Broccoli is a plentiful source of glucosinolates, which are converted enzymatically into isothiocyanates. In the body, the isothiocyanates in broccoli boost production of several Phase II detoxification enzymes, enhance antioxidant status, and protect animals against chemically induced cancer.”

A study at Johns Hopkins University showed that broccoli extract significantly reduced incidence, multiplicity, and weight of mammary tumors in rats after exposure to known mutagens.  Its activity is thought to work by enhancing enzymatic activity in Phase II of the detoxification system.

Cancer levels continue to be very high in the United States.  With the never ending influx of new chemicals into our world it is important to protect ourselves with nutrients that have been proven to be beneficial in the prevention of cancer.  Curcumin, chlorophyllin and broccoli extract have been shown to be very effective.  Traditional medicine promotes early detection as a crucial weapon in defeating cancer.  Early detection is of course important, but it is not prevention.  We propose that all of our patients take an active role in their health and prevent serious illness through good nutrition.

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Are we getting enough Vitamin D?

The Institute or Medicine (IOM) says we are.  They say we might even be getting too much.  Their recent report released on November 30th states that most Americans are getting enough vitamin D from their diet and supplementation is unnecessary.  In fact their conclusion to the report states “the committee emphasizes that, with a few exceptions, all North Americans are receiving enough calcium and vitamin D.”  I couldn’t disagree more.

The IOM examined over 1,000 studies and reports to make their conclusions that people need no more than 600IU of vitamin D per day.  They concluded that people are getting enough vitamin D.  However, this blanket statement only applies to one health factor – bone health.

It is my fear that people will see the headlines on the news and assume they are getting enough vitamin D.  The headlines inevitably will read “Americans Getting Enough Vitamin D.”  They will not tell people this refers only to bone health.  Vitamin D does so much more than protect your bones.

The IOM says the evidence, at this point, is insufficient to say that vitamin D has a protective benefit in any other area of health.  Research, however, has shown it improves cancer rates, reduces the incidence of MS, decreases cardiovascular disease rates and many more.

So why the conflict?

Part of the problem is that the IOM based it’s conclusions on what it takes to maintain bone health and since 2000 the research for vitamin D has exploded.  Many studies, published in some of the world’s most respected peer-reviewed journals, have concluded in direct conflict with what the IOM has said.

The IOM has said the studies that were done that drew conclusions on vitamin D’s other health benefits were either poorly designed or were insufficient to conclude vitamin D is good for anything but bone health.  These studies that they dismissed were good enough to be published in many of the best journals in the world.  I guess the IOM does not agree.

Below is a graph of the disease reduction rates by serum levels of vitamin D.  As serum levels rise, the rates of many diseases are reduced.  For example, breast cancer levels are reduced by 30% when vitamin D levels are at 34ng/ml or higher.  The X’s represent reasonable extrapolations based on the research but is beyond existing data.

 

Vitamin D reduces the rates of all of these diseases. It is NOT just for bone health as the IOM has concluded. The references are listed above as well.

The IOM report readily admits that people do not get enough vitamin D by saying:

“While the average total intake of vitamin D is below the median requirement, national surveys show that average blood levels of vitamin D are above the 20 nanograms per milliliter that the IOM committee found to be the level that is needed for good bone health for practically all individuals.”

If you look at the graph above you will see that the research is consistent with that statement.  At 20 ng/ml of serum vitamin D 99% of cases of rickets is prevented.  This is a disease of soft bones in children.  But what about all of the other wonderful, researched benefits of vitamin D? The IOM has seemingly missed the boat.

The graph above would suggest that a level of 60 ng/ml is optimal to protect a person from the diseases listed.  This is a serum level that cannot be obtained by current diets.  A person must supplement to reach this level and the IOM’s recommendation of 600IUs per day obtained from diet is exceptionally low.

I recently tested a patient who was under my care and was taking 4,000IUs per day as I had recommended.  Her serum vitamin D level came back at 18ng/ml.  By any current laboratory’s standard this patient was deficient in vitamin D.  And that’s after taking 4,000IUs per day for 2 months!  How can the IOM say 600IUs is enough for everyone.  It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

The IOM’s own report concluded that the average intake is below the median requirement but that blood levels were above the 20ng/ml required for healthy bones according to the quote above in gray.  How could that be possible?  Perhaps the 20ng/ml of serum vitamin D is too low as well.  This would make much more sense.  Instead of making that conclusion the IOM simply concluded that people must somehow be getting enough vitamin D.

I couldn’t disagree more.

The IOM has taken an exceptionally conservative stance on this.  Their stance on this is equivalent to saying that people shouldn’t exercise more than 10 minutes a day because any more than that might lead injury.

I recommend my patients get at least 2,000IUs per day of vitamin D.  I myself take 8,000IUs per day.  The benefits of taking vitamin D far outweigh any perceived “risks” associated with it.  Vitamin D is very safe and I hope this report doesn’t persuade any physicians into thinking it’s not.

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Food is largest source of exposure to BPA

Agua

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Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical additive that is used in many things but mainly in plastics and linings of food cans.  Up until a few years ago this was considered a harmless addition to our already high chemical exposure levels.  Then, it was found that exposure to this chemical is linked to serious side effects but you could avoid any consequences by not reusing that Poland Spring bottle, by not overheating your plastics in the microwave or by buying BPA free merchandise.  Now we are finding out that our largest exposure to BPA is our food itself.

BPA has been linked to breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, male infertility and other health problems.  Recently a U.N. panel concluded that the BPA in the packaging of our foods is actually leaching into the food making our food the number one source of exposure.  This should not be surprising.  One only needs to see the aftermath of the oil spill in the gulf to see that chemicals can get everywhere given the opportunity.

Information is limited on BPA.  It certain amounts it poses threats to fetuses, infants and growing children.  No one is quite sure what it does to adults.  For me, that’s enough.  If you didn’t know if a gun was loaded, would you point it at someone and pull the trigger?  Hopefully not and this is similar.  Just because we don’t know if it’s dangerous and the government is unwilling to take a stand on it just yet, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be eliminated from our food supply.

This is just another reason to eat an unprocessed, natural diet.  Because this exposure of BPA is coming from foods that are packaged it can be avoided to some degree.  Eat a diet that is high in healthy protein, fats and vegetables and fruits.  Stay away from the packaged food as much as possible. Not only will you avoid BPA but you’ll also get all the great benefits of a healthy diet!

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Finally, “modern” medicine catches up a little…

I have been touting the benefits of vitamin D for years.  A multitude of studies have shown that it is beneficial for many things, not just for healthy bones.  Now a new study, published in Pediatrics, shows that even infants need to supplement with vitamin D.

New research has shown that a significant portion of mothers and therefore infants are deficient in this life saving nutrient.  A second study in Pediatrics reports that 58% of newborns and 36% of mothers were deficient in vitamin D, according to blood tests. Although taking prenatal vitamins helped, more than 30% of moms who took them were still deficient. Getting lots of sunlight helped raise vitamin D levels in moms, but not in their newborns.

I always recommend extra vitamin D to my pregnant patients in addition to their regular prenatal vitamin.  Although prenatal vitamins are beneficial, they are entirely too low in vitamin D.  The fact that 30% of moms taking prenatals are still low in vitamin D proves it.

I have also have mothers question why I would recommend vitamin D to them during the summer months.  The first reason is that most people don’t get outside enough to get adequate vitamin D production.  Secondly, when they do go out, modern medicine has scared them into thinking they need to rub chemical laden creams into their skin to “protect” it.  Sunscreen blocks the production of vitamin D and who knows what it does to an unborn child.

The old recommendation of 200 international units (IUs) per day is extremely low.  They have doubled the recommendation up to 400 IUs per day and in my estimation that is still far too low.  While breast feeding is always best it does not provide enough vitamin D for the baby especially if mom is also low.  The best way to increase vitamin D in your baby is to supplement with it.  It is very inexpensive and comes in liquid form.  This new recommendation, while a step in the right direction, needs to be increased even more.

How Much Should My Baby Get?

Below is a good recommendation of how much vitamin D infants and babies should obtain.

Infants and children under the age of one should obtain a total of 1,000 IU (25 mcg) per day from their formula, sun exposure, or supplements. As most breast milk contains little or no vitamin D, breast-fed babies should take 1,000 IU per day as a supplement unless they are exposed to sunlight. The only exception to this are lactating mothers who either get enough sun exposure or take enough vitamin D (usually 4,000–6,000 IU per day) to produce breast milk that is rich in vitamin D. Formula fed babies should take an extra 600 IU per day until they are weaned and then take 1,000 IU a day, as advised below.

Children over the age of 1 year should take 1,000 IU per every 25 pounds of body weight per day, depending on latitude of residence, skin pigmentation, and sun exposure. On the days they are outside in the summer sun, they do not need to take any; in the winter they will need to supplement accordingly. (From www.vitaminDcouncil.org)

These recommendations are safe and effective.  The alternative is not taking any at all and putting your child at risk for a host of diseases.  Below is the reduction rates for many diseases with adequate vitamin D levels.  These rates are all from published, peer reviewed studies.

  • 35% reduction in all cancers with serum levels of 38 ng/ml or higher.
  • 83% reduction in breast caner with serum levels of 50 ng/ml or higher.
  • 17% reduction in ovarian cancer with serum levels of 47 ng/ml or higher.
  • 60% reduction of colon cancer with serum levels of 43 ng/ml or higher.
  • 18% reduction in Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma with serum levels of 38 ng/ml or higher.
  • 66% reduction in Type I diabetes with serum levels of 53 ng/ml or higher.
  • 54% reduction in multiple sclerosis (MS) with serum levels of 55 ng/ml or higher.
  • 30% reduction in heart attacks in men with serum levels of 35 ng/ml or higher.
  • 49% reduction in kidney cancer with serum levels of 48 ng/ml or higher.
  • 37% reduction in endometrial cancer with serum levels of 51 ng/ml or higher.

The bottom line is that to gain all of the benefits of vitamin D you need to keep your serum levels between 55 and 65 ng/ml at the very least.  To achieve this level, supplementation is a must even if you live in a sunny climate.

Toxicity?

This is a question I hear a lot.  People always ask me, “But isn’t vitamin D toxic?”  While vitamin D can become toxic in extremely high doses, the fear of toxicity is completely unwarranted.  The fear of toxicity is rampant, especially in traditionally trained physicians.  These fears are unnecessary and here’s why.  I will routinely recommend 6,000-10,000 IUs per day to my patients.  The toxicity levels established and accepted are 40,000-50,000 IUs per day for several months at a time.  No one takes that much and no one is recommending people take that much.  What about if people get regular sun?  Good question.  If regular sun exposure occurs I reduce my recommendations accordingly.  Secondly, all of my patients get their serum levels checked.  If the number starts to creep too high, I reduce their recommendations.  Simple as that.

Vitamin D is a critical vitamin in the body and it does far more than anyone thought just 5 years ago.  The risk of toxicity is relatively unfounded simply because most people cannot attain enough, either from sun, supplement or food, to actually reach toxic levels.  The flip side of that is not having enough, and the dangers of that far outweigh the dangers of having too much.  Vitamin D is easy to supplement with and to reach the most beneficial levels, supplementation is necessary.

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