Can diet be an essential therapeutic strategy for cancer patients?

Learning From Nutrition and Diet Experts

Medscape recently spoke with two renowned diet, nutrition and food experts on the subject of nutrition and its effects on cancer patients.  Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, is a dietician; author; speaker; and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, health, and cancer.  She commented on the Women’s Intervention Nutrition Study (WINS). “This is an important study because women with estrogen-receptor negative cancer have fewer treatment options.  The low-fat diet had a profound effect on recurrence in this group.”  Evidence is mounting toward the belief that diet can, in fact, prevent cancer and its recurrence involving breast cancer patients who were on curative therapy.

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A Plant Based Diet and Exercise

Additionally, in the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) study, an intense plant-based diet high in fruits and vegetables did not appear to improve survival, but when combined with a regular schedule of moderate exercise, it did reduce recurrence.  Dixon added that women with breast cancer often have a difficult time shedding excess weight, so even if you don’t buy into the effect your diet may have on the disease; it’s still a much healthier choice.  She points out that having cancer does not serve as a deterrent to other maladies such as heart disease, stroke, hypertension and other chronic diseases, so choosing a healthy diet is always the better path.

The second individual who spoke with Medscape on this subject is Rebecca Katz, MS, who is a chef, nutritionist, national speaker, and award-winning author.  Her books include: One Bite at a Time, The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen and The Longevity Kitchen.  In her book, The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, Katz discusses foods that a patient and their family can prepare to help them surpass that feeling of helplessness.  She believes that too much emphasis is placed on what shouldn’t be done and chooses to shift that to a more positive message; sharing what is good to do through her healthy recipes.  In The Cancer-fighting Kitchen, Katz dedicates an entire chapter to an A-to-Z resource that details the evidence-based cancer-fighting properties of foods, herbs, and spices.  These are, of course, the foundation of the book’s recipes. The more these compounds are utilized and combined; the greater the chances of realizing their benefits.

Foods have many cancer-fighting properties, including anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and pro-immune system effects.  Along with regular exercise, maintaining a healthy attitude, and avoiding illness and infection, research indicates that diet does influence cancer progression, risk of recurrence, and survival.

Eating a Healthy Diet Assists You In Preventing and/or Healing From Cancer

So, whether you’re healthy and want to do all you can to continue on that path or you’re currently in the process of releasing cancer from your system (or that of a loved one) the evidence is quite compelling to lead you toward these healthier lifestyle choices.  The foods you put into your body are a major factor.  How could they not be?  You wouldn’t put a low octane gasoline in your Ferrari and expect it to run at its peak performance level for long.  Food is fuel.  It really matters.

Wishing you the happiest and healthiest New Year, -Dr. Sass