18 June 2012

Ian Gawler Blog: Let your food be your medicine

Nutrition reduces the risk of developing cancer, along with its progression and recurrence for those who already have it - the top 10 recent research articles - including an answer to the soy question.

But first, how can we go past:

Thought for the Day

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food

                 Hippocrates – commonly referred to as the founder of western medicine

I have had the good fortune to attend and speak at two major international nutrition conferences in the last month. The first was a combined effort from the CSIRO, the Australian Dieticians and ACNEM, a peak body for doctors interested in nutritional and environmental medicine. The second was convened by Metagenics and focused on the therapeutic application of nutrition in cancer medicine. One of the world-class speakers summed up and said that this conference was like drinking intellectually and emotionally from a fire hose!

The take home message? The volume of research in this field is staggering – even for me who attempts to keep up with it. Anyone who suggests nutrition is unimportant for people dealing with cancer is both ill-informed and dangerous. Ill-informed because the evidence base is comprehensive. Dangerous because they may cause vulnerable people to ignore or disregard a source of significant help – for their quality of life and their survival.

While there was a lot of talk regarding the importance and clinical application of epigenetics (and I will report on this later), for the next two weeks I will share some of the nutritional research that impressed.


1. One quarter of all cancers could be prevented by a healthy diet and exercise.
ESTIMATE FOR 2025:  About 170,000 Australians diagnosed with cancer -
an increase of 60% on 2007. 

43,000 of these cancers are preventable through improvements to diet and physical activity levels. 

It is likely that this is an underestimation of the true figure.

While the theoretical impact of primary prevention is substantial, motivating populations is difficult. Therefore, unless a concerted and significant effort is made to invest in and implement powerful preventive measures, the reduction of cancer incidence over the coming decades will probably be relatively small.

Baade P D et al, Med J Aust 2012; 196 (5): 337-340.

refer to Blog: 26 March 2012

2. Nutrition and lifestyle prevents breast cancer
Be as lean as possible
Be physically active - at least 30mins/day
Limit alcohol to one drink/day
Mothers breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 mths
     -- this will reduce the mother’s risk and reduce the child’s risk of becoming       overweight

Expect a 40% reduction in breast cancer.
                                                 Based upon 954 studies, AICR & WCRF 2009

3. Anti-inflammatory diet contributes to longevity.
Meta-inflammation is low-level, systemic inflammation. It is a major factor in most chronic degenerative diseases including cancer.
Modern nutrition is a significant “inducer” of meta-inflammation.
Egger, G, ACNEM Journal, Mar 2012, Vol 3 No 1 P12-14

It is well known that inflammation potentiates active cancers, therefore, when we adopt an anti-inflammatory diet (like the one in YCCC), we reduce inflammation and assist recovery.

4. Turmeric and pepper target breast cancer stem cells
Cancer stems cells are associated with cancer’s capacity to lay dormant and then reappear as a metastasis or secondaries. As far as I know, there are no drugs in current use that can impact significantly upon these cells, short of stem cell transplants. However, nature offers hope.

Turmeric (curcumin) and black pepper (piperine) separately, and in combination, have been found to inhibit breast stem cell self-renewal but are non-toxic to differentiated cells. This is another good reason to use these two regularly.

Kakarala, M et al, 2010, Br Ca Research & Treatment, Vol 122, No 3, 777-785

5. Research claims soy is safe for breast cancer
The soy question has to be one of the most contentious and relevant nutritional issues for women with breast cancer (especially if HER +ve) for some time. Here is a summary quoted in part from what is a very comprehensive analysis of available research:

Currently there is little evidence to suggest that any potential weak estrogenic effects of dietary isoflavones (as found in soy) have a clinically relevant impact on breast tissue in healthy women. Limited data suggest this is also the case for breast cancer survivors.

Findings from one rodent study showed that genistein may interfere with concurrent tamoxifen treatment, suggesting that breast cancer patients taking a tamoxifen-like drug may need to limit soyfood intake and avoid isoflavone supplements.

Currently there is no data to support the idea that soyfoods or isoflavone supplements improve the prognosis of breast cancer patients.

Available data on breast cancer recurrence and mortality provide some assurance for breast cancer patients that soyfoods and isoflavone supplements, when taken at dietary levels, do not contribute to recurrence rates; although more data are clearly needed to better address this issue.

Messina, MJ and Wood CE, Nutrition Journal 2008, 7:17


1. IAN’s NEXT WEBINAR IS ON MINDFULNESS: Tuesday 19th June at 8pm EST

All welcome to tune in – you just need to register via the Mindbody Mastery website via the link : www.anymeeting.com/mindbodymastery

2. Chocolate trialed as antihypertensive for kids

Not sure whether to laugh or cry about this one, what do you think?
In a study of the effects of daily consumption of dark chocolate on blood pressure (BP), Melbourne school children had a 97% ‘adherence’ rate – no problem getting them to eat it!

However, the seven-week pilot study, conducted by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, did not show any benefit of dark chocolate on either systolic or diastolic BP, according to results published in the Archives of Diseases in Childhood.

The researchers say a larger and longer trial – perhaps with a higher daily ‘dose’ of chocolate - will be needed to show any real effects.

And we cannot get funding for a lifestyle based cancer intervention study. Maybe we need to emphasis the program’s chocolate component!


Eating for recovery

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Eating well, being well

Eating for recovery


  1. Thanks for this informative newsletter. Can you please let me know what YCCC is as in "anti-inflammatory diet (like the one in YCCC)"
    Sandra Dubs www.ozfoodtrainer.com

  2. YCCC is my book You Can Conquer Cancer. It details the way of eating I have advocated for 30 years and has two levels. First is the Wellness Diet which is for people who are well, seek to stay well and to be really well. Then there is the healing Diet which is more thorough and designed for those intent on eating for recovery.

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