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"The facts about cancer fighting vegetables"
 

With the increase in the popularity of natural medicines as a support in the treatment of cancer millions of patients all over the world are utilizing natural therapies as either a sole therapy, or as an adjunct to orthodox therapies.

Despite research expenditures approaching six billion dollars annually, during the last 30 years increases in the survivability of the major cancers, including breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer can be measured in small percentage points. Orthodox treatments, though somewhat less toxic than in the past, can be miserable ordeals for the patients.

So what about alternative cancer treatments? Anodal evidence would suggest the success of these treatments is either overstated (by the alternative cancer treatment community), or understated (by the orthodox cancer treatment community). One thing is clear...the most promising programs are integrating orthodox and non-traditional approaches. Taking into consideration the mind and body, the most successful practitioners integrate various components of the alternative cancer treatments without painting themselves into a corner by being committed to a particular model.

The purpose of this information is to provide to you relevant nutritional, herbal and supplemental information about certain foods that have been shown to benefit those on the journey to health and recovery. There is much to learn and understand and generally speaking there is a mine field of options and opinions on the right course of action. What I do know from my experience is that what works for one may not work for another. Keeping this in mind the following information will provide you with what I consider basic nutritional strategies for wellness. Any thing we do not discuss is based on the fact that this article is about giving you a guiding hand to the subject.

Cancer Fighting Vegetables

The fact is, many types of vegetables can assist in the prevention of cancer and provide the protection against the disease. Research has identified many active ingredients found in vegetables and their roles in protecting different types of cancer. The following article discusses those vegetables in more detail. Many dollars have been poured into the nutritional benefits of vegetables in the prevention of cancer and are listed below:

Vegetables with the highest anti-cancer activity include garlic, cabbage, soy, ginger, carrots, celery, parsley and parsnip. Vegetables with the modest anti-cancer activity include onions, flax seed, citrus, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower and solanaceous vegetables such as tomato (rich in lycopene) and peppers.

 

Benefits of Garlic

Health benefits of garlic are often reported. The most commonly known benefits of garlic are its potential role in cancer. Indeed, the first scientific report to study garlic and cancer was performed in the 1950s. Scientists injected allicin, an active ingredient from garlic, into mice suffering from cancer. Mice receiving the injection survived more than 6 months whereas those which did not receive the injection only survived 2 months.

Many studies showed that the organic ingredient of garlic, allyl sulphur, another active ingredient in garlic, are effective in inhibiting or preventing cancer development. Many observational studies in human being also investigated the association of using garlic and allyl sulphur and cancer. Out of the 37 studies, 28 studies showed evidence that garlic can prevent cancer.

The evidence is particularly strong in prevention of prostate and stomach cancers. This particular study looking at the risk of stomach cancer was especially interesting. This study was conducted in China. Researchers found that smokers with high garlic intake have a relatively lower stomach cancer risk than smokers with low garlic intake.

A large-scale epidemiological Iowa Women's Health Study looked at the garlic consumption in 41,000 middle-aged women. Results showed that women who regularly consumed garlic had 35% lower risk of developing colon cancer. It is thought that the allyl sulphur compounds in garlic prevent cancer by slowing or preventing the growth of the cancer tumour cells.

In order to maximize the health benefits of garlic, it is suggested to wait 15 minutes between peeling and cooking garlic to allow the enzymatic reaction to occur to retain some health benefits of garlic. If you use garlic supplements, use the enteric coated tablets so that the healthy ingredients can survive the stomach and be absorbed into the bloodstream in the small intestines Please be cautious if you are taking garlic supplements and blood thinners such as aspirin and warfarin at the same time. Garlic supplements will further thin your blood. In addition, it is suggested to discontinue garlic supplementation at least 7 days prior to surgery.

Benefits of Flax seed
 
Its high content of alpha linolenic acids has made the ancient flax seed become our modern miracle food. Alpha linolenic acid is a type of omega 3 fatty acid, similar to those found in fish such as salmon. Benefits of flax seed as shown in many studies include lowering total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the Bad cholesterol) levels. Other benefits show that flax seed may also help lower blood triglyceride (Also Read: How to lower Triglycerides?) and blood pressure. It may also keep platelets from becoming sticky therefore reducing the chance of a heart attack.

Aside from alpha linolenic acid, flax seed is rich in lignan. Lignan is a type phytoestrogen (antioxidant) and also provides fibre. Researches reveal that lignan in flax seed shows a lot of promise in fighting disease -- including a possible role in cancer prevention especially breast cancer. It is thought that lignan metabolites can bind to oestrogen receptors, hence inhibiting the onset of oestrogen-stimulated breast cancer.

Recent studies also showed positive benefits of flax seed oil in Irritable Bowel Disease (Crohn's Disease and Colitis). Flax seed oil seems to be able to heal the inner lining of the inflamed intestines. Moderately include flax seed in your diet. Indeed, a lot of food products contain flax seed such as bread, cereal and bakery goods. Bakers may use flax seed flour or include flax seed in baking.

Does Soy offer a protective effect against breast cancer?

Soy contains plant chemicals called isoflavones genistein found in soy, has displayed cancer-fighting activity in lab tests involving cancers of the prostate, breast and colon. Some human studies demonstrated the same encouraging results, but some other clinical trials did not. Among all mentioned cancers, data on soy and prostate cancer seems to be the most promising; many studies support its role in the prevention and possible treatment of prostate cancer.

Soy and Breast Cancer

While some studies showed soy offers a protective effect against breast cancer, a few studies showed the oestrogen-like effects in isoflavones may be harmful for women with breast cancer. American Institute for Cancer Research stresses that data on soy and breast cancer are not conclusive, and more work is needed to be done before any dietary recommendations can be made.

What we know at this point is the phytoestrogens in soy foods are "anti-estrogens". In other words, they may block oestrogen from reaching the receptors - therefore potentially protecting women from developing breast cancer. Studies found that pre-menopausal may benefit from eating soy foods as their natural oestrogen levels are high.

However, this may not be true to post-menopausal women. Studies found that soy could become "pro-oestrogen" in women with low levels of natural oestrogen. In other words, concentrated soy supplements may add oestrogen to the body and hence increase breast cancer risk in post-menopausal women.

Most health professionals agree that a healthy balanced diet that includes soy is certainly a good idea, along with plenty of whole grains and fruits/vegetables. In addition, isolated isoflavone supplements in pills or powder should be used in caution - especially in post-menopausal women

Yes, genetically modified soybean, along with other 42 types of crops are approved by Health Canada for food use in Canada and 44 crops are approved in the States. For safety concerns, check with your local health/food inspection agencies or Health Canada Online. With the increasing public concerns regarding genetically modified foods, look for soy products which use non-genetically modified soy crops in their production

Soluble Fibre vs. Insoluble Fibre

We all know the benefits of fibre! Fibre not only promotes health, it also help reduce the risk for some chronic diseases. For instance, fibre prevents constipation, haemorrhoids and diverticulosis. Fibre is also linked to prevent some cancers especially colon and breast cancer. In addition, fibre may help lower the LDL cholesterol (the Bad cholesterol) and the total cholesterol therefore reducing the risk of heart disease. Furthermore, fibre can help lower blood sugar therefore help better manage diabetes.
 
Both soluble and insoluble fibre are undigested. They are therefore not absorbed into the bloodstream. Instead of being used for energy, fibre is excreted from our bodies. Soluble fibre forms a gel when mixed with liquid, while insoluble fibre does not. Insoluble fibre passes through our intestines largely intact.

Insoluble Fibre

The functions of insoluble fibre include its capacity to assist the moving of bulk through the intestines and its positive influence upon the balance of pH (acidity) in the intestines.   Insoluble fibre benefits include the promotion of regular bowel movements and the prevention of constipation, removes toxic waste through colon in less time and assists keep an optimal pH in intestines to prevent microbes from producing cancer substances therefore preventing colon cancer. Food sources of insoluble fibre include whole-wheat products, oats, corn bran, flax seed, vegetables such as green beans, cauliflowers and potato skins, fruit skins and root vegetable skins.

Soluble Fibre
 

The functions of soluble fibre include that it binds with fatty acids as well as prolonging stomach emptying time so that sugar is released and absorbed more slowly. The benefits of soluble fibre include lowering of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the Bad cholesterol) therefore reducing the risk of heart disease and assisting to regulate blood sugar for people with diabetes. Food source of soluble fibre include oat bran, dried beans and peas, nuts , barley, flax seed, fruits such as oranges and apples, vegetables such as carrots and psyllium husk.

Will eating Farmed Salmon cause Cancer?

Over the years I have received numerous questions on farmed salmon. On one hand, the Australian Heart Association recommends eating fish/salmon and their products to prevent heart disease. On the other hand, recent media reported that eating farmed salmon may cause cancer. We will discuss a few major reports and some background information about farmed salmon and PCBs so that you can make a sound decision.

What are PCBs?

Polychlorinated biphenyls PCBs are mixtures of up to 209 individual chlorinated compounds (known as congeners). There are no known natural sources of PCBs. PCBs are either oily liquids or solids that are colourless to light yellow. PCBs have been used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors, and other electrical equipment because they don't burn easily and are good insulators. The manufacture of PCBs was stopped in the U.S. in 1977 because of evidence they build up in the environment and can cause harmful health effects and may cause cancer. However, PCBs persist in the environment. Fish absorb PCBs from contaminated sediments and from their food.

Farmed Salmon have always been under the gun

David Suzuki Foundation: In January 2001, BBC News produced a program "Warnings from the Wild, The Price of Salmon". The program cited a pilot study conducted by Dr Easton with David Suzuki Foundation. The study found that farmed salmon and the feed they were fed appeared to have a much higher level of contamination with respect to PCBs, organo-chlorine pesticides and polybrominated diphenyl ethers than did wild salmon.

EWG Report: In July 2003, the Environmental Working Group EWG released a report stating that farmed salmon purchased in the United States contain the highest level of PCBs in the food supply system. In the report, EWG reported that farmed salmon have 16 times PCBs found in wild salmon, 4 times the levels in beef, and 3.4 times the levels in other seafood.

Science Journal: In January 2004, the journal Science warned that farmed salmon contain 10 times more toxins (PCBs, dioxin, etc.) than wild salmon. Why do Farmed Salmon contain more PCBs than Wild Salmon? Fishmeal/Feed: Studies found that the fishmeal fed to farmed salmon is highly contaminated with PCBs Farmed salmon are "fatter": Farmed salmon are generally bigger in size and contain more fat than wild salmon. PCBs are stored in fat and remain there for an extended period of time, therefore farmed salmon contain more PCBs.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances or nutrients in our foods which can prevent or slow the oxidative damage to our body. When our body cells use oxygen, they naturally produce free radicals (by-products) which can cause damage. Antioxidants act as "free radical scavengers" and hence prevent and repair damage done by these free radicals. Health problems such as heart disease, macular degeneration, diabetes, cancer etc are all contributed by oxidative damage. Antioxidants may also enhance immune defence and therefore lower the risk of cancer and infection.

Most commonly known Antioxidants

Vitamin A and Carotenoids Carrots; squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, kale, collards, cantaloupe, peaches and apricots (bright-
coloured fruits and vegetables!)
Vitamin C; citrus fruits like oranges and lime etc, green peppers, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, strawberries and tomatoes
Vitamin E; nuts & seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, vegetable oil and liver oil
Selenium; fish & shellfish, red meat, grains, eggs, chicken and garlic

Other known antioxidants (common phytochemicals)

Flavonoids / polyphenols:


Soy
Red wine
Red grapes
Pomegranate
Cranberries
Tea

Lycopene:


Tomato and tomato products
Pink grapefruit
Watermelon

Lutein:


dark green vegetables such as kale, broccoli, kiwi, brussels sprout and spinach

Lignan:


Flax seed
Oatmeal
Barley
Rye

Vitamin-like Antioxidants:
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Glutathione

Antioxidant enzymes made by the body:


Superoxide dismutase (SOD)
Catalase
Glutathione peroxidase

Benefits of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) for Cancer Treatment

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) has been quite popular in the past years. Possible benefits of CoQ10 supplements include the prevention and treatment of cancer and heart disease. CoQ10 supplements are usually available in either powder capsules or oil-based softgel capsules.

What is CoQ10?

Coenzyme Q10 is considered a non-essential nutrient as it can be synthesized by our bodies. It is used by our bodies to produce energy. It also acts as an antioxidant protecting us from free radical damage. Its antioxidant effects are similar to those of vitamin E. Some studies also suggested that Coenzyme Q10 stimulates the immune system.

Possible Benefits of CoQ10 in Cancer Treatment

Two studies showed that cancer patients have lower levels of Coenzyme Q10. In addition, a small human trial in Denmark involving 32 breast cancer patients investigated the efficacy of CoQ10 as an adjunct therapy (adjunct = supplements + conventional cancer treatment). The results showed that all patients in the trial reported that they used fewer painkillers and did not lose weight during cancer treatment. In addition, 6 patients showed signs of remission i.e. tumour regression.

Furthermore, some anecdotal reports also recorded that adjunctive CoQ10 supplementation has increased the survival of patients with cancers of the pancreas, lung, colon, rectum, and prostate cancer.

Selenium and Cancer

Because it boosts the body's antioxidant capacity, selenium is thought to have some ability to control cell damage that may lead to cancer. Selenium may even act in other ways to stop early cancer cells in their development. A recent study also suggested that selenium may enhance immune function, at least in those healthy adults with relatively low blood selenium. So far based on the evidence of animal and epidemiological studies, the role of selenium and cancer is probably the most significant for prostate cancer.

Quite a few promising studies published in 2004 showed the potential benefits of selenium in prevention of cancer. One particular epidemiological study published in May 2004 in the Journal of National Cancer Institute revealed that patients with high blood levels of selenium were about half as likely to develop advanced cancer as the patients with lower blood selenium. This study had a good sample size (>1000 healthy male and females) and a long study period of over 13 years. The duration is significant.

A well designed randomized double-blind controlled study would be able to determine selenium's benefits. Currently the SELECT trial (the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial) is in progress. This study hopes to enrol 32,000 patients aged 55 or older and will be follow them for 12 years.

Selenium and other cancers
Several other studies recently suggested that lower blood selenium may be associated with increased risk of colon cancer. Another study published in August 2004 also revealed that selenium may prevent gastric cancer, especially in men.

Benefits of Maitake Mushroom in Cancer

Maitake Mushroom (Grifola frondosa) may best be known for its cancer-fighting properties. It contains grifolan, an important beta-glucan polysaccharide (molecule composed of many sugar molecules linked together). Grifolan has been shown to activate macrophages, a type of cell consider the " heavy artillery": of the immune system, explains Larry A. Walker, Ph.D., R.D., author of "Natural products update," published in Drug Topics, June 1997. D-fraction, one of the polysaccharides in maitake mushroom, also energized the cellular immune system.

The evidence confirming maitake's therapeutic value - both in and out of the laboratory - is impressive. Laboratory studies have shown that maitake extract can block the growth of cancer tumours and boost the immune function of mice with cancer.

Haroaki Nanba reported the findings of the following study in "Maitake D-fraction: healing and preventing potentials for cancer," published in the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, Feb/Mar 1996; In a non-randomized clinical study, 165 individuals with advanced cancer used maitake D-fraction. Patients received either maitake D-fraction alone or with chemotherapy. Maitake mushroom was found effective against leukaemia and stomach and bone cancers. Responses were further improved when maitake D-fraction and chemotherapy were used together. Individuals receiving maitake D-fraction also experienced relief from the side effects of chemotherapy, such as loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, hair loss, and deficiency of white blood cells.

Other Benefits of Maitake Mushroom

People with Type 2 Diabetes may also benefit from maitake mushroom, according to researchers Hiroaki Nanba and Keiko Kubo, authors of "Mushroom biology and mushroom products". Researchers investigated a specific, high-molecular polysaccharide in maitake called the X-fraction. They found that mice given maitake had an increased ability to recognize glucose, and the control group had higher blood glucose levels. The researchers suggested that maitake mushroom can reduce insulin resistance, thereby increasing insulin sensitivity. The X-fraction appears to be the active compound with anti-diabetic properties.

In addition, many doctors in Japan use maitake mushroom to lower blood pressure and blood lipids, two key risk factors in cardiovascular disease.

Health Benefits of Green Tea

Tea is the most commonly consumed beverage in the world after water. Whether it is black, green or red (oolong) tea, they all contain polyphenols which give tea its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants may help protect our body from free radical damage. Indeed, tea ranks as high as or higher than many fruits and vegetables in the ORAC score, a score which measures antioxidant potential of plant-based foods.

Benefits of Tea

Numerous studies have demonstrated the anti-cancer properties of polyphenols. Some studies indeed suggested that tea's polyphenols may reduce risk of gastric, oesophageal and skin cancers if one consumes 4 to 6 cups daily. Other laboratory studies have found that polyphenols help prevent blood clotting and lower cholesterol levels.

Tea: Black, green or red?

The more processing tea leaves undergo, the darker they will turn. Green tea is the least processed tea. They are simply steamed quickly. Black and red teas are partially dried, crushed and fermented. As we have mentioned before, regardless of the processing method, all teas contain polyphenols.

What about Decaf Tea?

We do not know whether decaf teas have the same polyphenols, and thus the same health benefits. It is not yet known if removing caffeine also removes polyphenols in the decaffeinating process.

Alcohol and Cancer

What is the link between alcohol and cancer risk? According to the expert report from the American Institute for Cancer Research, Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, there is convincing evidence that alcohol increase the risk of cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx and oesophagus. The risk of upper respiratory tract cancer is greatly increased if drinkers also smoke. Alcohol increase the risk of liver cancer as well as increases the risk for colon, rectal and breast cancer.

How does drinking alcohol increase cancer risk?

When you drink alcohol, the sensitive tissues of your upper-respiratory tract are directly exposed to alcohol in beverages, causing damage to cells and possibly initiating cancer. Cancer of the liver is probably preceded by alcoholic liver cirrhosis which develops after years of drinking. There is less known about how drinking alcohol affects the development of other cancers.

What can I do to lower my cancer risk?

One thing you can do is choose not to drink alcohol, or choose to drink them only in moderation. That's no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 for women.

Why is the recommended limit different for women and men?

Alcohol affects women and men differently. A woman's body has more fat and less muscle than a man's. Alcohol can be diluted into water-holding muscle tissue, but not into fat tissue. Therefore alcohol cannot be diluted as quickly in her body as in his. Also, a woman cannot metabolize alcohol as quickly as a man. Therefore, alcohol stays in her bloodstream longer.

Does drinking present special risks for women?

The risk for developing breast cancer, the second most common cancer in women in the States, rises with increased alcohol consumption. Women at a high risk for breast cancer should consider not drinking. Women develop alcohol-related health problems, such as cirrhosis of the liver, faster then men who drink the same amount. Finally, alcohol can severely injure a pregnant woman's unborn child.

Is it true that drinking alcohol can lower my risk for heart disease?

There is evidence that drinking modest amounts of alcohol is associated with a lower risk for coronary heart disease in men, and perhaps women. For more details, read However, drinking higher amounts of alcohol raises the risk of cancer along with risks for, stroke, heart disease, birth defects, inflammation of the pancreas, damage to the brain and heart, malnutrition, osteoporosis, accidents, violence and suicide. There are better ways to decrease your heart disease risk, including exercising, reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, lowering and in your diet, controlling blood pressure and not smoking.

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