Tag Archives: nutrition

Cancer Hides, Phytonutrients Seek

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 2.02.05 PM

How brightly colored fruits and veggies protect against cancer 

The foods we eat play a significant role in our health. Processed foods often contain additives and are stripped of their nutritive value. Junk foods that contain ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and trans fats promote chronic inflammation and weaken the immune system — factors that allow chronic diseases like cancer to ensue.  

Data show that in 2015 there will be an estimated 1,658,370 new cases of cancer and 589,430 deaths from the disease in the United States. By 2030, cancer, not heart disease, will be the No. 1 killer of Americans. While these facts are grim, it’s also important to understand that this doesn’t have to be the case.

Cancer isn’t smarter; it’s just stealthier. The truth of the matter is that cancer cells lie in our bodies for years waiting for the right conditions for it to grow and spread. How many years? Well, through postmortem studies we know that cancer has been found in the bodies of people in their 20s. So people can be walking around with cancer and don’t even know it until much later in life.

Cancer stem cells remain dormant until the conditions in the body are ideal — preferably when immune system is weak — before it begins to surge. More aggressive forms of cancer cells possess surface markers that render them invisible so they can remain undetected for years. Other cells are even capable of turning off tumor suppressor genes. 

Once cancer cells become active they proliferate. While some cells are benign, other tumors grow and spread to other tissues, a process called metastasis.

To make matters more complex, cancers stem cells may develop resistance to cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy.

But we are not defenseless against cancer. Cancer is preventable. In my new book, The Gene Therapy Plan, an entire chapter is dedicated to chemopreventive approaches through diet and lifestyle. In the book, I explain the crucial role that nutritional epigenetics plays in cancer prevention. Epigenetics is the study of chemical tags called epigenes that modify our DNA in ways that activates or inactivates genes to keep us healthy or make us sick.

So nutritional epigenetics is the way in which our diet impacts our health at the level of our DNA. The bioactive compounds found in wholesome foods affect our epigenes to boost health and thwart disease. When it comes to cancer, there’s a wide array of substances found in various foods that squelch cancer cells.

When you walk through a farmers market or supermarket, those brightly colored fruits and veggies get their hues from powerful phytonutrients that possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that work to prevent cellular damage. Many of those compounds work to inhibit many of the ways in which cancer cells work to proliferate and spread in the body.

Eating a variety of produce daily has been shown to protect against cancer as well as other conditions like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Because there is no specific do-it-all nutrient that fights cancer, consume fruits and vegetables with various colors. These phytocompounds work together to kill cancer cells from the onset by enhancing the immune system.

Here are some fruits and vegetables that you need to include in your diet for cancer prevention.  

Apples are packed with vitamin C, fiber, and quercetin. Quercetin, much of which is contained in the peel, is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant nutrient that helps to fight cancer.

Beets contain betaine a nutrient that block cancer development.

Broccoli and broccoli sprouts contain sulforaphane, a nutrient that inhibits cancer.

Radishes contain anthocyanins and vitamin C — compounds that possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that help to prevent cancer.

Sweet potatoes are loaded with fiber. They also contain beta-carotene. Don’t peel off the skin, or you’ll be throwing away thousands of phytochemicals. 

Tomatoes contain lycopene, an anticancer nutrient that promote cancer apoptosis (cell death). Cook whole tomatoes to increase the bioavailability of the healthful nutrients it contains.

Black raspberries are packed with resveratrol, a promoter of cancer cell death.  It also activates hundreds of tumor suppressor genes. Because this fruit isn’t always in season, you can purchase its powdered form too.

Grapes also contain resveratrol. This anti-inflammatory, antioxidant nutrient prevents cancer.

Grapefruit contains loads of vitamin C and detoxifies the body and eliminates cancer-causing substances. 

Watermelon is rich in vitamins A and C and contains more lycopene than fresh tomatoes.  

Photo credit: CDC/Mary Anne Fenley/James Gathany

Reference:

“Cancer Statistics.” National Cancer Institute. Accessed August 14, 2015. http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/what-is-cancer/statistics.

 American Society of Clinical Oncology, The State of Cancer Care in America, 2014: A Report by the American Society of Clinical Oncology Accessed August 14, 2015. http://jop.ascopubs.org/content/early/2014/03/10/JOP.2014.001386.full.pdf.

The Diabetes-Alzheimer’s Disease Link

Brain Buster and Booster

In The Gene Therapy Plan, you’ll find chapters dedicated to diabetes and aging. And although they are discussed separately in the book, health conditions hardly ever exist in isolation. For one, diabetes has been linked to other conditions like obesity, heart disease, cancer, and advanced aging. Data show that memory and cognition may also be affected by diabetes and that the damage may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and it affects over 5 million Americans 65 years or older. The condition is often preceded by mild cognitive impairment (MCI). And as the disease progresses into Alzheimer’s, people with AD will experience increasing deterioration of their cognitive function and behavioral ability — to such a degree that it impairs their ability to carry out simple, everyday activities like getting dressed.

In an animal study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers took a closer look at the link between diabetes and AD. The researchers induced a hyperglycemic state in young mice without beta-amyloid plaques (a proteinaceous plaque found in the brains of AD patients) and found that the plaque increased by 20 percent. When they repeated the experiment, this time using AD mice, the researchers found that the level of plaques doubled (40%).

Dr. Shannon Macauley, a postdoctoral research scholar and one of the lead authors in this study said, “Our results suggest that diabetes, or other conditions that make it hard to control blood sugar levels, can have harmful effects on brain function and exacerbate neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. The link we’ve discovered could lead us to future treatment targets that reduce these effects.”

While further studies targeting the pathways and mechanisms involved between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease may take years of research, the good news is we don’t have to wait that long for answers. We can’t deny the deleterious effects that poor glucose control has on overall health. Eating too many simple carbs and sugars are no good for our health. And because our brains main source of energy comes in the form of glucose, the type of sugars we eat has a huge impact on brain health.

So to prevent and treat diabetes, we can take control of what we eat and engage in physical activity to maintain a healthy weight and regulate blood glucose levels. Eat organic, wholesome foods that are nutrient-rich not calorie-poor like chicory, probiotics, brown rice, and organic lean meats. Chicory, for example, contains vanadium, a mineral, that helps to promote insulin sensitivity.

By eating healthful foods that keep us feeling fuller longer and are chock-full of health-promoting nutrients, we ensure that we don’t experience blood sugar spikes that are often associated with processed carbohydrates and refined sugars. 

Photo Credit: Positive thinker/Shutterstock.com

References: 

Macauley, Shannon L., Molly Stanley, Emily E. Caesar, Steven A. Yamada, Marcus E. Raichle, Ronaldo Perez, Thomas E. Mahan, Courtney L. Sutphen, and David M. Holtzman. “Hyperglycemia modulates extracellular amyloid-β concentrations and neuronal activity in vivo.” The Journal of Clinical Investigation

5 Things to Prevent Obesity

Fruits and Veges

Based on the USDA’s MyPlate initiative, the recommendation for a healthy diet is that people should consume about 2 to 3 cups of vegetables and 1.5 to 2 cups of fruits. One of the long-held views about eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is that it helps to also promote weight loss. Fruits and veggies contain loads of fibers that cannot be broken down by digestive chemicals in the gut. So that means these foods aren’t absorbed quickly and take a long time to travel through to the gut. And that’s a good thing — fiber in plant-based foods keeps people feeling fuller for a longer period of time.

But all the slicing, dicing, and chopping of fruits and veggies that will be either tossed in a salad or dropped in a juicer may have lots to offer as far as nutrition is concerned, but little to do with weight loss. One study showed that incorporating plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet doesn’t help you shed those pounds.

Yes, fruits and vegetables will make you feel you sated longer.

Yes, by eating plant-based foods, you’re getting the benefits of loads of phytonutrients.

No, you’re not going to lose weight if you rely solely on fruit and vegetable intake.

Weight loss is a complex issue that is based on the amount of energy consumed as food and the amount of energy burned during exercise. To lose weight and keep it off you can’t rely on diet alone.  You have to combine a healthy diet and physical activity to help you maintain a healthy weight — not just as a short-term goal but for years to come. You can fight obesity, an epidemic in the United States, by doing the following:

  1. Drink a lot of water:  Organic juices are good, but our body, which is made up of over 70% water, needs plain old H2O for many of its cellular activities.
  2. Consume foods high in fiber: It lowers cholesterol and reduces the risk of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
  3. Avoid processed foods: To give foods a longer shelf life, foods are stripped of important nutrients and often too much salt and sugar are added back in order to enhance the taste.
  4. Steer clear of fizzy drinks: Sodas contain a lot of sugar and unhealthy additives.
  5. Engage in daily physical activity: Whether it’s walking the dog, running on a treadmill, or taking a yoga class, find an activity that you enjoy doing that will also help to keep your weight in check.

Good nutrition and physical activity help to promote a healthy lifestyle. While fruits and vegetables contain various components such as bioactive compounds, phytonutrients, and antioxidants, you also need to exercise to burn calories and keep a healthy weight. In my new book, The Gene Therapy Plan: Taking Control of Your Genetic Destiny with Diet and Lifestyle, which will be published by Viking in April, I explain how you can prevent and reverse conditions like obesity. I also offer plenty of nutritional recommendations and include recipes, so you can implement the Plan into your daily routine. Do this, and you’ll be well on your way toward achieving longevity and good health.