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Starving Cancer with Methionine Restriction

Methionine restriction—best achieved through a plant-based diet—may prove to have a major impact on patients with cancer because unlike normal tissues, many human tumors require the amino acid methionine to grow.

September 18, 2013 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited

V. Agrawal, S. E. J. Alpini, E. M. Stone, E. P. Frenkel, A. E. Frankel. Targeting methionine auxotrophy in cancer: discovery & exploration. Expert Opin Biol Ther 2012 12(1):53 - 61.

M. F. McCarty, J. Barroso-Aranda, F. Contreras. The low-methionine content of vegan diets may make methionine restriction feasible as a life extension strategy. Med. Hypotheses 2009 72(2):125 - 128.

M. C. Ruiz, V. Ayala, M. Portero-Otín, J. R. Requena, G. Barja, R. Pamplona. Protein methionine content and MDA-lysine adducts are inversely related to maximum life span in the heart of mammals. Mech. Ageing Dev. 2005 126(10):1106 - 1114.

M. López-Torres, G. Barja. Lowered methionine ingestion as responsible for the decrease in rodent mitochondrial oxidative stress in protein and dietary restriction possible implications for humans. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 2008 1780(11):1337 - 1347.

E. Cohen. Chitin synthesis and degradation as targets for pesticide action. Arch. Insect Biochem. Physiol. 1993 22(1 - 2):245 - 261.

P. Cavuoto, M. F. Fenech. A review of methionine dependency and the role of methionine restriction in cancer growth control and life-span extension. Cancer Treat. Rev. 2012 38(6):726 - 736.

E. Boedeker, G. Friedel, T. Walles. Sniffer dogs as part of a bimodal bionic research approach to develop a lung cancer screening. Interact Cardiovasc Thorac Surg 2012 14(5):511 - 515.

H. Sonoda, S. Kohnoe, T. Yamazato, Y. Satoh, G. Morizono, K. Shikata, M. Morita, A. Watanabe, M. Morita, Y. Kakeji, F. Inoue, Y. Maehara. Colorectal cancer screening with odour material by canine scent detection. Gut 2011 60(6):814 - 819.

K. Yamagishi, K. Onuma, Y. Chiba, S. Yagi, S. Aoki, T. Sato, Y. Sugawara, N. Hosoya, Y. Saeki, M. Takahashi, M. Fuji, T. Ohsaka, T. Okajima, K. Akita, T. Suzuki, P. Senawongse, A. Urushiyama, K. Kawai, H. Shoun, Y. Ishii, H. Ishikawa, S. Sugiyama, M. Nakajima, M. Tsuboi, T. Yamanaka. Generation of gaseous sulfur-containing compounds in tumour tissue and suppression of gas diffusion as an antitumour treatment. Gut 2012 61(4):554 - 561.

H. Y. Guo, H. Herrera, A. Groce, R. M. Hoffman. Expression of the biochemical defect of methionine dependence in fresh patient tumors in primary histoculture. Cancer Res. 1993 53(11):2479 - 2483.

D. E. Epner. Can dietary methionine restriction increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy in treatment of advanced cancer? J Am Coll Nutr 2001 20(Suppl 5):443S-449S; discussion 473S-475S.

E. Cellarier, X. Durando, M. P. Vasson, M. C. Farges, A. Demiden, J. C. Maurizis, J. C. Madelmont, P. Chollet. Methionine dependency and cancer treatment. Cancer Treat. Rev. 2003 29(6):489 - 499.

B. C. Halpern, B. R. Clark, D. N. Hardy, R. M. Halpern, R. A. Smith. The effect of replacement of methionine by homocystine on survival of malignant and normal adult mammalian cells in culture. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 1974 71(4):1133 - 1136.

C. M. Willis, S. M. Church, C. M. Guest, W. A. Cook, N. McCarthy, A. J. Bransbury, M. R. T. Church, J. C. T. Church. Olfactory detection of human bladder cancer by dogs: Proof of principle study. BMJ 2004 329(7468):712.

D. Pickel, G. P. Manucy, D. B. Walker, S. B. Hall, J. C. Walker. Evidence for canine olfactory detection of melanoma. App Anim Behav Sci 2004 89(1):107-­116.

Acknowledgements

Images thanks to www.usda.gov, Gajda-13, California Department of Fish and Game, Pingpongwill, Kacper "Kangel" Aniołek, NMajik, Veganbaking.net, Wilfredo R. Rodriguez H., Scarce, RankoThe Noun Project via Wikimedia Commons and the queen of subtle via Flickr. Thanks to Ellen Reid, Maxim Fetissenko, PhD, and Laurie-Marie Pisciotta and for their keynote help.

Transcript

In designing an antibiotic, you couldn't create a drug that destroyed DNA, for example, because that's something that both humans and bacteria share in common. It would kill bacteria, all right, but it might kill us, too. Instead, many antibiotics work by attacking bacterial cell walls, which is something bacteria have that we don't.

Antifungals can attack the unique cell walls of fungus. Pesticides can work by attacking the special exoskeleton of insects. But fighting cancer is harder, because cancer cells are our own cells. So fighting cancer comes down to trying to find and exploit differences between cancer cells and normal cells.

Forty years ago, a landmark paper was published showing for the first time that many human cancers have what's called absolute methionine dependency, meaning that if you grow normal cells in a Petri dish without given them the amino acid methionine, then normal cells thrive; but without methionine, cancer cells die. Normal breast cells, for example, grow no matter what, with or without, but leukemia cells—they need that extra added methionine to grow.

What does cancer do with the methionine? Well, tumors generate gaseous sulfur-containing compounds with it – that, interestingly, specially trained dogs can actually detect. There are mole sniffing dogs that can pick out skin cancer. There are breath-sniffing dogs that can pick out people with lung cancer. Pee-sniffing dogs that can diagnose bladder cancer and, yes, you guessed it, fart-sniffing dogs for colorectal cancer. Doctors can now bring their lab to the lab…

Gives a whole new meaning to the term "pet scan."

Anyway, methionine dependency is not just present in cancer cell lines in a Petri dish. Fresh tumors taken from patients show that many cancers appear to have a biochemical defect that makes them dependent on methionine, including some tumors of the colon, breast, ovary, prostate, and skin. Pharmaceutical companies are fighting to be the first to come out with a drug that decreases methionine levels, but since methionine is sourced mainly from food, a better strategy may be to lower methionine levels by lowering methionine intake, eliminating high methionine foods, or both, to help control cancer growth.

Here's the thinking: look, smoking cessation, consumption of diets rich in plants, and other lifestyle measures can prevent the majority of cancers. Unfortunately, people don't do them, and as a result, each year hundreds of thousands of Americans develop metastatic cancer. Chemotherapy cures only a few types of metastatic cancer…Unfortunately, the vast majority of common metastatic cancers, like breast, prostate, colon, and lung, are lethal. We therefore desperately need novel treatment strategies for metastatic cancer, and dietary methionine restriction may be one such strategy.

So, where is methionine found? Particularly in chicken, and fish. Milk, red meat and eggs have less, but if you really want to stick with lower methionine foods, fruits/nuts/veggies/grains and beans are the best. In other words, "In humans, methionine restriction may be achieved using a predominately vegan diet.”

So why isn't every oncologist doing this? "Despite many promising preclinical and clinical studies in recent years, dietary methionine restriction and other dietary approaches to cancer treatment have not yet gained wide clinical application. Most clinicians and investigators are probably unfamiliar with nutritional approaches to cancer. [That's an understatement.] Many others may consider amino acid restriction as an “old idea,” since it has been examined for several decades. However, many good ideas remain latent for decades if not centuries before they prove valuable in the clinic. With the proper development, dietary methionine restriction, either alone or in combination with other treatments, may prove to have a major impact on patients with cancer.”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ariel Levitsky.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org.

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

This video can be considered a companion to Anti-Angiogenesis: Cutting Off Tumor Supply Lines, in which this same diet could starve these same tumors of their blood supply.

There are compounds in animal products that may actually stimulate tumor growth. See How Tumors Use Meat to Grow: Xeno-Autoantibodies. Animal protein may also boost levels of the cancer-promoting hormone IGF-1 (The Answer to the Pritikin Puzzle). Combined, this could all help explain why plants and plant-based diets have been found effective in potentially reversing some cancer processes. See Cancer Reversal Through Diet?, Strawberries versus Esophageal Cancer, and Black Raspberries versus Oral Cancer.

Sorry if you were distracted by the pet puns—I couldn't help it! :) Another way companion animals may protect against cancer is explored here: Pets & Human Lymphoma.

Why might the medical profession be so resistant to therapies proven to be effective? The Tomato Effect may be partially to blame.

If you were looking closely at the title of the review I featured, noting that plant-based diets may prove to be a useful nutritional strategy in cancer growth control, you'll notice it also looked at the role of methionine restriction in life-span extension. That's the topic of the next video Methionine Restriction as a Life Extension Strategy.

For more context check out my blog: Top 10 Most Popular Videos from 2013, A Low Methionine Diet May Help Starve Cancer Cells, and How Plant-Based Diets May Extend Our Lives.

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Annoyed by Paleofraud

    Add excessive methionine to the list of pasture-raised meat baddies.

    • Joe

      What else have you got on that list? I’m intrigued by your username!

      • Annoyed by Paleofraud

        parasites,
        live pathogens, endotoxins (dead pathogens), saturated fat, trans fats,
        cholesterol, TMAO (depends on your enterotype), harmane, Neu5Gc, heme iron, PAH’s (PhIP), added
        hormones, natural hormones, IGF-1, environmental toxins (PCB’s, dioxin, mercury,
        cadmium, etc.). Other than the added hormones, these are all present in the cows or caused by eating their meat before they are put in the feedlot.

        • Joe

          I remember TMAO and the Organochlorines (PCB etc) from Dr Gregors videos. IGF-1 is fairly well accepted now – what about harmane, Neu5Gc and PAHs ? What are they?

          Presumably organic meat would at least not have any added hormones? But I agree – some people swear by the Paleo diet – even some well known doctors – but I don’t buy it.

          • Annoyed by Paleofraud

            Dr. Greger has vids/articles on all of these you can find via the search function. Harmane associated with meat consumption leads to essential tremors, Neu5Gc is a sialic acid tumors use to cause inflammation/vascularization (and also causes arthritis), and PAH’s are cooked meat carcinogens.

  • b00mer

    I’ve been using cronometer to track my food intake. I tend to consume about 150% of the recommended amount of protein in general (using the “standard” recommendations), and all essential amino acids are well above the recommended values, up to 400%. Methionine however, is consistently the lowest value, averaging no higher than ~120%, and is the only one which, once or twice, has dipped down to only 98-99%.

    • holaprofe

      What are you using to measure your food intake exactly, b00mer? I’m really intrigued.

      • Toxins

        Cronometer is a valuable tool for measuring food intake and uses data from the USDA database.
        http://cronometer.com/

        • Barry Honeycombe

          i will take a look – sounds great and very useful. Thx

      • b00mer

        What Toxins said! I’ve never used a food diary before since most of them are just calories and macronutrients, but using this one is FUN. I love seeing how everything adds up in the micronutrient categories. Highly recommend it, even if you just use it for a few days to get a snapshot of your diet. You can even use it for a week, look at the nutritional data for each day, plus look at your overall averages for the week. It’s pretty cool. :)

  • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

    PET scan at the dog`s office….
    :-)

  • Wegan

    So are you now saying the Gerson style diets work?

  • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

    The problem with a plantbased diet with low methionine is that it is low-tech, not sexy and no money involved.

    • Brian R Gard

      Actually there is a lot of money involved – in the saving to the victim or potential victim who avoids the disease all together. It is my life goal to bankrupt the crooked medical, pharmacy and agribusiness
      corporations to the fullest extent of my capabilities, save the money for vacations longevity and enjoying life!

      • faangface

        wow. cool. how are you going about doing that, in addition to having a non ag-bus diet, etc.?

        • Brian R Gard

          As much as I can, eat whole foods – and natural foods as much as possible, grow some organic foods at home, even forage in national forest for some natural foods – yes largely dependent on industrial farming, but avoid dairy, sugar, ect.

    • Barry Honeycombe

      I agree – Food giants don’t want you to know this, afterall – they’d rather push their “food-like” products at you.

  • tobell2013

    Now I am wondering about Sam-e. Its name is S-adenosylmethionine. Does this have the same effect on cancer? I hope not since 400 mg daily makes joints feel better. My vegan protein powder also adds 225 mg of methionine amino acid to its mix. Is this just depleting the benefit of using vegan protein powder? This video has brought up some interesting questions for me. It is like eating chicken and fish for the lower cholesterol and the good omega 3 acids; but getting more methionine to cause cancer. Where does it all end?

    • b00mer

      Even assuming the Sam-e funtions in the same manner as methionine, perhaps I can share my perspective: yesterday, with my WFPB diet, I consumed 700 mg methionine total. In just one chicken breast however (280 cal), there are 1480 mg methionine. So even if I took my entire day’s worth of food, added your 400 mg Sam-e, and the 225 mg methionine from the shake, I would still be consuming less methionine than a non-vegan who consumed just one chicken breast and nothing else that day.

      I realize it’s not really an answer, just my perspective. Is there a reason you feel like you need the protein powder? A WFPB diet will provide more than enough protein without any supplementation.

      • http://www.eatandbeatcancer.com/ Harriet Sugar Miller

        I wonder if the phytic acid in many plant foods inhibits our absorption of methionine. That could be a good thing, right?

  • Catherine J Frompovich

    Dr. Greger,
    Thank you for pointing out this most important information, which WORKS. I’ve been on a vegan diet and have ungrown a tumor in my R breast, as proven by sonograms. No surgery, no radiation, no chemotherapy. However, the key in eating vegan is to eat ORGANICALLY-grown vegan! No GMOs! Plus eliminate vinegar and high-acid base foods, e.g., sodas, junk foods, etc.
    A plant-based diet impacts pH in the body, which is part of the equation for beating cancer.
    I’ve written a book about the ‘odyssey’ I am on; it’s A Cancer Answer, Holistic BREAST Cancer Management, A Guide to Effective & Non-Toxic Treatments, available on Amazon.com.
    The book is written in 3 parts. Part II deals extensively with diet: the reasons for eating certain plant foods; types of foods to eat; meal plans and, of course, recipes.
    My expertise is a retired natural nutritionist who was in private practice and physicians’ offices. I’m 75 years young.
    I agree about oncology missing the boat on the importance of a plant-based diet in cancer management. Yes! The late Dr. Max Gerson, MD, plant-based and juicing diet is extremely efficacious in managing and curing many, if not all, cancers.
    Personally, I think a properly designed plant-based diet for oncology to embrace would be a God-send to cancer patients. I would be willing to offer my help and experience to any oncologist interested. However, be forewarned, I won’t recommend that GMO foods are the same in food/nutritional values as heirloom or organically-grown foods.
    My reasons are legion, but the primary one is all the glyphosate that is sprayed on crops in the fields, which leaves toxic residues in food. Toxins and poisons are one of the precipitants for DNA adducts leading to cancerous tumors/growth.
    Again, thank you for all the good work you do. I, for one, truly appreciate an MD who gets it regarding nutrition.

    • NancyNurse

      Actually, vinegar becomes alkaline in the body…

      • Catherine J Frompovich

        Actually, you are wrong, sorry to have to say. You may be thinking of apple cider vinegar, which some claim turns alkaline, but vinegar is vinegar, and turns into an acid ash in the body! Please refer to this website

        http://www.ask.com/question/ph-level-of-vinegar

        Vinegar is a clear and bitter liquid used for cooking. It is also often
        used for natural cleaning. The pH level of vinegar is 2.5, which means it is
        highly acidic.

        • Toxins

          I am unsure of vinegar, but acidic foods such as citrus metabolize to a net alkalinity. The actual PH of the food has little to do with the renal acid load.

          • Coacervate

            What are you talking about?

          • Veganrunner

            Coacervate maybe you need to more specific. What are you asking?

          • Toxins

            Almost all plant foods will produce a potential renal acid load (PRAL) that is negative (alkaline) because of the amino acid makeup. Grains are very slightly acidic but most animal products are several times times more acidic. The PRAL can be calculated with this formula PRAL = 0.49(Protein) + 0.037(Phosphorus) – 0.021(Potassium) – 0.026(Magnesium) – 0.013(Calcium).

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7797810

            You can go to the USDA nutrition database and calculate the alkalinity or acidity of certain foods this way using a 100 gram serving sample.

            http://nutritiondata.self.com/

            Here are a list of common plant foods. A negative number indicates alkalinity whereas positive means acidity.

            Cereals, oats, regular cooked with water, w/o salt/ 2.18

            Bananas, raw/ -6.93

            Blueberries, raw/ -1.04

            Rice, brown, long-grain, cooked/ 2.18

            Broccoli, cooked, boiled, drained, w/o salt/ -3.57

            Cauliflower, cooked, boiled, drained, w/o salt / -1.33

            Carrots, cooked, boiled, drained, w/o salt/ -4.10

            Peaches, raw/ -3.11

            Beans, kidney, cooked, boiled, w/o salt/ -0.69

            Kale, raw/ -8.34

            Animal Foods

            Chicken, broilers or fryers, breast, meat only, cooked, roasted/ 17.30

            Egg, whole, raw, fresh/ 9.43

            Fish, salmon, Atlantic, wild, cooked, dry heat/ 7.57

            Beef, bottom sirloin, tri-tip, separable lean only, trimmed to 0″ fat, choice, cooked, roasted/ 12.79

            Cheese, cheddar/ 19.00

            As you can see, all animal foods are acidic. This acidity is bad for our bones as explained by this study. “In response to chronic acid stress such as is imposed by an acid-ash diet, cellular responses mobilize bone and calcium as a buffer.”

            http://jn.nutrition.org/content/128/6/1051.full

            This acidic environment increases the production of cortisol which further diminishes bone density.

            http://ajprenal.physiology.org/content/284/1/F32.full.pdf

            This chronic acid load people put on their body causes bone loss leading to osteoporosis later on in life and possibly other diseases.

          • Toxins

            UPDATE: The PRAL does not contribute to bone loss as previously hypothesized, but to calcium loss from the food eaten. It is still not negligible though because an acidic diet does indeed contribute to muscle wasting, poor uric acid clearance and kidney stone formation. Dr. Greger will share this data in one of his upcoming videos in volume 15.

          • deborahconner

            Can you please do something on s adenosylmethionine (SAMe) supplements?

          • http://www.eatandbeatcancer.com/ Harriet Sugar Miller

            Could you cite the studies that indicate foods that contribute to an alkaline balance in the body are protective against cancer?

          • Toxins

            I am unsure of these specific studies you speak of, but Dr. Greger has a video covering this.
            http://nutritionfacts.org/video/alkaline-diets-animal-protein-and-calcium-loss/

          • http://www.eatandbeatcancer.com/ Harriet Sugar Miller

            The video focuses on the effects of acid/alkaline diets on bone loss. I am unsure of those studies too. I am not even sure they exist. I’ve never seen any. What I’m wondering is: From where come the claims that we need to eat alkaline diets to combat cancer? Those claims are voiced all over the internet, and I’d like to see the science that backs them up. Can anybody help explain the connection?

        • crystal girl

          really… your reference is ask.com?

  • Dr. Bill Misner PhD

    Dr. Greger’s brilliant message labels cause and effect dietary direction for those to prevent cancer growth.

  • ifyoucareenough

    I just passed this to my sister if she wants to pass it to my 69 yr old brother who has been diagnosed with metastatic duodenal cancer. Five years ago, when I went vegan, I tried to get my family to and if fell on deaf ears. My brother says he doesn’t believe an omnivorous diet caused his cancer, and his doctor’s are telling him that diet will have no effect on his prognosis. I really wish he would at least give it a try, but, I’m sure he will continue to rationalize his meat addiction, right to his own demise.

    Very upsetting to me. Plus, he once said that he didn’t care about animals, something that really shocked and disappointed me. I think it’s kharma: what we do to the animals, we do to ourselves.

    • Thea

      ifyoucareenough: It is always so hard when the people we love and want to help don’t listen to us. You can’t force people to change. All you can do is provide information when they are ready to take it in.

      In the mean time, congratulations on your own healthy diet. You are being a good role model, and some times that is all you can do.

      Best of luck to you.

  • deborahconner

    And what is your view of s adenosylmethionine (SAMe) suppliments?

  • Donald Pearline

    Thanks,
    passing this on to my daughter, doing her fellowship in Heme/Onc at UCSF.

  • David Camerpong

    So I am reading (albeit old copy of) A-Z guide to supplements (Balch MD) & it says good sources of Methionine are beans, eggs, fish, garlic, lentils, meat, onions, soybeans, seeds, & yoghurt?

    Livestrong says ..Poultry eggs,Oats wheat germ, red peppers, onions, garlic, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.
    That’s pretty much all the veggies I eat….
    So I’m pretty much dead man walking??

    • b00mer

      I eat a ton of of beans, lentils, onions, garlic, broccoli, and oats. My methionine intake is rather low, about 1% of my total protein intake. I wouldn’t go by qualitative lists and descriptions, I’d check out the actual numbers:

      Assuming 300 calories worth of each food:

      Chicken breast: 1590 mg methionine
      Salmon: 1370 mg
      Ground beef: 1250 mg
      Eggs: 760mg
      Broccoli: 370 mg
      Black beans: 310 mg
      Oats: 240 mg
      Lentils: 200 mg
      Garlic: 160 mg
      Onion: 10 mg

      Or in terms of the percentage of methionine out of total protein:
      Eggs: 3.2%
      Salmon: 2.8%
      Chicken: 2.8%
      Beef: 2.6%
      Broccoli: 1.6%
      Black beans: 1.5 %
      Garlic: 1.0%
      Lentils: 0.83%
      Onion: 0.12%

      So perhaps they were trying to include some plants with the highest methionine content (compared to other plants) to round out the list, but you’re still better off with plants vs animals.

      • Toxins

        Good display boomer!

        • b00mer

          Thanks!

  • jimmy

    oviously you no fan of german new medicine,and prefer for patients to remain to be held hostage by rockefellers medical mafia

  • jimmy

    I find it offensive that some posing as humanitarians,still push grains on the uneducated masses,disregarding the proof of grains poisonous affects on the human body

    • Toxins

      Grains are perfectly healthy foods and no studies have shown deleterious effects from consuming grains.
      http://www.healthgrain.org/webfm_send/251

    • David Camerpong

      “…disregarding the proof of grains poisonous affects on the human body”
      you could provide a link to some of this proof please

  • Coacervate

    Fabulous! The gas that the dogs smell, what is it specifically? Is it different for different tumor types? Could there be a link between Met requirement and sulfur compounds in cruciferous veg anti-cancer activity?

    One small dietary tip I have learned to the good folks here: If you don’t feed a troll, it will wander away.

  • guest

    I just read this in http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23408942 “Higher intake of folate is marginally associated with a lower risk for ER- breast cancer, and higher intakes of vitamin B-12 and methionine are marginally associated with a lower risk of ER+ breast cancer.” Now I’m confused.

    • Mariel

      If it’s from the government, I’m not going to probably believe it seeing as how the RDA’s and the Food Pyramid are government affiliated and so outdated and wrong!

  • David Camerpong

    http://www.healthvitaminsguide.com/aminoacids/methionine.htm

    Methionine is found in good quantities in meat, fish, beans, eggs, garlic, lentils, onions, yogurt and seeds.
    It’s everywhere!!

    • b00mer

      Yes, it’s one of the essential amino acids so it will be found in all foods. However, there is a huge difference between the amount found in animal foods vs plant foods. By calorie, chicken has 159 times the methionine compared to onions. By percentage of total protein content, there’s a 23-fold difference. I eat in a whole day what other people eat in half a chicken breast. There’s no comparison.

  • cynthia

    Is whey protein powder alright to drink? Or is that cancer causing?

    • Toxins

      Check out the videos on the top of this page. http://nutritionfacts.org/index.php?s=igf-1

      Getting excess protein is unfounded and can contribute to cancer growth.

    • Darryl

      Whey, a cheese production byproduct, does have lower levels of methionine than cheese, which has the high methionine amino acid profile of whole milk casein.

      From a pure personal health perspective, whey isn’t quite the smoking gun that casein is. Personally, I recognize that dairy also involves environmental and animal welfare costs, and that was enough for me to choose to stop being part the problem, and stop buying dairy products like whey.

      There are plenty of vegan athletes, indeed the PlantBuilt team seems to have dominated this year’s 2013 Naturally Fit Supershow. In other words, pea protein works as well as whey for building muscle.

      Methionine itself isn’t cancer causing; its cancer promoting. We are all exposed to enough chemical mutagens, radiation, and endogenous copying mistakes to produce dozens of cancerous cells every day. In part, what high methionine does is send growth signalling messages that promote lone cells into tumors.

  • Darryl

    Another amino acid, lysine, is perhaps most important for vegan diets, as vegans who get enough lysine likely get enough of the other essential amino acids. For other vegans looking to get enough protein while limiting methionine, legumes offer much higher Lys/Met ratios than grains do, and lentils (9.0), adzuki & fava beans (8.0), split peas (7.5) and pigeon peas / toor dal (6.71) stand out as the legumes with the highest Lys/Met ratio.

    • tedster

      I downloaded the table from the USDA food composition data link that you provided but did not see methionine in the table. My concern is that I take a fenugreek seed supplement and now I’m wondering if that’s adding an appreciable amount of methionine to my methionine intake.

      • Darryl

        NDB# 2019, fenugreek seed, has 0.58 g methionine and 0.35g cysteine per 100 g, up there with sesame seeds and sunflower seeds as some of the plant foods with the highest methionine. A large 00 capsule can hold at 1g, so a normal sized adult would need to take on the order of 100 capsules daily just to meet the estimated average requirement for adults of 15 mg/kg/day of methionine + cysteine (each spares requirements for the other).

        I’m pretty fond of fenugreek (and methi is cheap at the local Indian grocery), in fact, I’m chewing on a handful of seeds right now.

        Fenugreek lowers fasting blood glucose, LDL and VLDL in Type I and Type 2 diabetes, and fenugreek extracts preferentially kill cancer cells in vitro. In rats, oral fenugreek prevented DMBA induced breast cancer, and of considerable interest to me, seems to have increased autophagy (the longevity-promoting cellular spring cleaning) in the process.

        • Veganrunner

          Darryl do you soak the seeds first?

          • Darryl

            I mostly use them in curries, most often as part of panch phoron Bengali dishes, but the spice cupboard was just 5 steps away from from my computer yesterday. I can see where they might work in the morning smoothie (which is already half flax and wheat germ).

          • Veganrunner

            I am liking the smoothy idea.

    • Harriet Sugar Miller

      Somewhere in this wealth of informative discussion you suggest that oats and peas are good choices because they’re high in glycine and low in methionine. What kinds of peas are you suggesting? Dried ones such as splits, pigeon peas? chickpeas? fresh green peas?

      • Darryl

        With respect to glycine/methionine ratio, legumes have the highest ratio among food groups, while legumes with particularly high G/M are fava, peanuts, lentils, split peas, azuki, soy, lima, mung beans, pigeon peas (in that order). Soy has relatively high methionine among plant proteins, which perhaps calls for moderation, but its not named Glycine max for nothing.

        As cysteine spares methionine requirements, and serine readily interconverts with glycine, I’ve also looked at the (G+S)/(M+C) ratio. Legumes (in aggregate) still look very good here: legumes (4.1), nuts (3.0), mollusks (2.8), grains (2.5), tubers, red meat, poultry (2.4), dairy, pork (2.3), fish (2.1), though collagen and its rendered product gelatin have the highest ratio among foods (36, with G/M=32). Legumes with higher (G+S)/(M+C) ratios would be: soy, pinto, kidney, black, navy, lima, azuki, peanuts, fava, and lentils. Buckwheat, with oats not far behind, are comparable among grains.

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    Restricting Meth in your lifestyle has always been beneficial!! ;-)

  • Ronald Chavin

    Dr. Greger is misleading us that fish contain much higher levels of methionine than other animal-source protein foods such as meats, eggs, cheese, cream, and milk. The truth is that some fish contain 20% to 30% more methionine but other fish contain 10% to 20% less methionine than other animal-source protein foods:
    http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-000084000000000000000-1.html?

    Note that in the above list of foods that are highest in methionine, 200-calorie portions were measured for each food. This makes high-calorie fatty meats such as beef, pork, and chicken look much lower in methionine than they would if equal WEIGHTS of each food were compared against each other.

    The big picture: Studies show that people who eat lots of fish have LOWER cancer death rates and LONGER life expectancies than vegans. This is despite the fact that most fish eaters use plenty of salt to make their fish taste better. Salt always contains cancer-causing nitrosamines.

    As for methionine, I agree with Dr. Greger that it is one of more than a dozen reasons why vegans have lower cancer death rates than meat eaters. Methionine increases blood levels of the cancer-causing growth hormone, IGF-1.

    However, keep in mind that methionine and lysine are the 2 essential amino acids that are most likely to be deficient in human nutrition. Several poor nations have fortified their soymilk with methionine or lysine. This despite the fact that soybeans (and fenugreek seeds) already contain more methionine than all other plant-source foods. Vegans who are worried about deficiencies of amino acids should just eat more plants. Well-fed vegans are never deficient in essential amino acids.

    When soy infant formula, which is already naturally high in methionine, was fortified with even more methionine, the health of newborn human babies improved:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/574352

    • Barton van Buskirk

      i would like to see a response to this

      • Toxins

        response above

    • Toxins

      Fish is not a health promoting food, and of the epidemiological studies I have seen where pescetarians and vegans are compared, it is never specified how healthy the vegans actually were. Even so, Dr. Greger covers fish here
      http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/fish/

    • Darryl

      There are 3062 single ingredient foods in the USDA database with at least 1 g protein / 100 g food and measured methionine content.

      Avg. g methionine per: 1000 kcal 100 g protein
      animal foods (1999) 3.88 2.59
      dairy & eggs (168) 1.87 2.67
      poultry (351) 3.53 2.65
      cured meats (120) 1.87 2.51
      pork (306) 3.05 2.48
      beef (474) 3.17 2.57
      fish & shellfish (245) 4.64 2.85
      lamb, veal & game (335) 3.02 2.43
      plant foods (1064) 0.69 1.36
      spices & herbs (20) 0.76 1.38
      breakfast cereal (57) 0.44 1.75
      fruit (44) 0.16 0.99
      vegetables (485) 0.70 1.12
      nuts & seeds (124) 0.64 1.95
      legumes (190) 0.97 1.25
      grains & pasta (144) 0.54 1.77

      While these spreadsheet averages don’t necessarily reflect these foods relative contribution to diets, I do think they tell us a few things. Animal products have more methionine than plant foods, both on a per calorie and per g protein basis, and among animal foods, fish & shellfish do indeed have the highest levels.

      • Thea

        Darryl: Very nice reply. I like how you put the hard numbers to it to explain the point.

        I’ll just put my own spin on it by saying that Dr. Greger’s videos are by necessity high-level summaries. There is nothing misleading about it. As anyone can see by the numbers that Darryl dug up, fish in general is indeed worth pointing out at he worst/highest category of methoionine.

        Thanks again Darryl for your high quality info.

    • Darryl

      I personally believe the slight advantage of pescetarians have over vegans in mortality studies should be seen in the light of nutrients taurine and long-chain fatty acids (DHA/EPA), absent in plant foods and for which fish are good sources. The long-chain fatty acids have been covered regularly on NutritionFacts and Dr. Greger recommends algal DHA supplements. Taurine has been perhaps neglected. Vegans often have low taurine levels, and taurine has consistently demonstrated cardioprotective effects in epidemiological, individual, and mechanistic studies. In the CARDIAC study, when taurine excretion is over 1200 µmol or 150 mg / day, IHD mortality was uniformly low, and as that much taurine powder would cost around $2.75 per year, and there’s no apparent risks, its seems a no-brainer for vegan health insurance. Perhaps Dr. Greger will come around on this in the future.
      Is the apparent heath benefit of pescetarian diets entirely accounted for by taurine and long-chain fatty acids? There isn’t enough data to say. I think the likelihood is high.

    • tedster

      I found two sources that indicate 0g of methionine in fenugreek seeds. I’m curious, where did you see that fenugreek seeds contain more methionine than all other plant-source foods?

      • b00mer

        Hi tedster, just a suggestion – do you know what “serving size” your sources are using? Sometimes when you look up a food it might be giving you the information for what’s in for example 1 g of the food, and many of the values end up reported as zero or close to zero. Methionine is essential, so it is present in all whole foods.

        • tedster

          One source said 0g/100g and the other 0g/11.1g, but I wasn’t necessarily comfortable with the sources. Up above, Darryl responded that there is 0.58g methionine / 100g fenugreek seed. He cited NDB# 2019, which I think is a USDA nutritional database, however I’m not positive. I see how the second source I found would round that to zero, but I’m not sure how the first source rounded to zero from 0.58. I will pay more attention to the serving sizes. I assumed they were standardized, but it looks like not every source reports that way.

          • Darryl

            The USDA gives all its values (in its nutrition data, its flavonoid content data, etc) per 100g.

            I’ve further streamlined William Harris’s spreadsheet conversion of the database to just vegan foods of interest to me (ie, those with significant nutritional value I’ve ever seen locally), and you’re welcome to use or copy it from here.

          • tedster

            Thanks for the reference table. Super cool!

          • Thea

            Darryl: I’m behind on my e-mails, but I didn’t want to forget to say, “Thank you!” for sharing this spreadsheet. Very cool.

          • DanielFaster

            Also keep in nind the nutritional data bases are an average of a range e.g. one crop might be 0.3 and another 0.9 (just making these up) for an average of 0.6. Then because of tens of thousands of enzymatic feedback and feedforward loops if your body “needs” a particular nutrient it will act to enhance bioavailability of that nutrient or reduce it if it is not in short supply. Its really quite pointless to try to micromanage individual nutrients All you need to know is to not eat so many foods with a lot of what you don’t want and seek out those you want, and eat a variety. Your body and your microbiota will usually figure it out.

  • Melissa

    Dear Dr. Gregor, I just received your latest email about the collected works on DVD. In that email you asked for donations and mentioned that you give away all proceeds from speaking engagements and publications to charity. I made a donation because I support this most excellent and essential work. But I would advocate as a business person that you squirrel away enough cash–or donate it to this particular non-profit–to keep the engines running. Perhaps that’s what you already do. But I can’t think of a better cause to support with your speaking and publishing than this, and there is no other source for this level of objective and timely information out there. In support and gratitude, Melissa

    • Thea

      Melissa: I can’t speak for Dr. Greger, but if memory serves, I believe I did read a comment from Dr. Greger on another page where he said something like: He used to change the charities that he donated the proceeds from his DVDs to. But now that this site is doing so well and costing so much, he does put the money into this site.

      So, I think you and Dr. Greger are on the same wave length. And I personally couldn’t agree with you more.

  • Park Firebaugh

    But doesn’t restricting sulfur containing amino acids (vegetarian diets) lead to subclinical malnutrition, hyperhomocysteinemia and atherogenesis? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21872435

    • Darryl

      In human trials, severe methionine restriction appears to reduce reduce homocysteine somewhat, as two amino acids regularly cycle between another in a methylation cycle. To ensure body stores are preferentially partitioned towards methionine rather than homocysteine, its probably important to consume the methyl donors folic acid (highest in greens & legumes), betaine (beets, spinach, wheat) and vitamin cofactors B6 (garlic, nuts, legumes) and B12 (vegans must supplement).

      The point isn’t to eliminate methionine from the diet (impossible for those who eat food), but to reduce levels to adequate for metabolism while avoiding intercellular (insulin/IGF-I) and intracellular (PI3K/Akt/mTOR) growth signalling that arise from methionine excess.

      • Brown

        If the purpose is to avoid intercellular (insulin/IGF-I) and intracellular (PI3K/Akt/mTOR) growth, then why not use curcumin, egcg, and spices (all of which reduce the above), instead of risking clinical malnutrition by avoiding meat altogether? It’s not just tumor cells that need those amino acids.

        • Darryl

          While the polyphenols you mention can indeed effect nutrient signalling pathways when added to cell cultures at non-physiologically relevant concentrations, they’re not particularly potent. They’re comparable to other polyphenols like resveratrol and quercetin (which require extracellular concentrations in the 100s of μM to markedly inhibit ATP synthase, which activates AMPK, which inhibits mTOR, or more than 100 times whats possible from even high dietary intakes 1, 2). Curcumin, EGCG, and spice polyphenols are of much more interest as inducers of phase II enzyme response and inflammatory transcription factor NF-kB inhibitors, where their bioactivity is more plausible.

          I’m not particularly worried about methionine deficiency. The estimated average requirement of 15 mg/kg/day of methionine + cysteine (each spares requirements for the other) for adults isn’t particularly difficult to achieve, especially if nuts and soy products are daily fare. My guesstimate is my varied vegan diet brings Met+Cys to around 150% of the EAR, vs 3-400% when I was a heavy animal products consumer. There’s simply not an epidemic of kwashiorkor (methionine deficiency) among vegans or among most people in the developing world eating varied near-vegan diets.

        • Thea

          re: “…instead of risking clinical malnutrition by avoiding meat altogether…”

          If you watch enough videos on this site or take in other sources (which I can suggest if you are interested), you will see that eating a whole plant food based diet is the best way to avoid clinical malnutrition. See:
          http://nutritionfacts.org/2011/09/12/dr-gregers-2011-optimum-nutrition-recommendations/

          Or put another way: adding meat, dairy and eggs is by no means a way to prevent clinical malnutrition and sometimes gets in the way of good nutrition. I think the underlying assumption behind your comment/question is not valid.

      • jms

        The MTHFR 677T genetic mutation interferes with the mythelation cycle, inhibiting eventual conversion of folate into 5-MTHF. Supplementation with 5-MTHF is said to circumvent this deficiency.

        Would taking a 5-MTHF supplement increase one’s methionine level, and cancer risk?

  • Tan

    Thanks for the information again Dr. Greger, and the jokes.

  • Ahmad

    A previous video on Bragg relative to MSG indicated it to be harmless.
    What about the high methionine content of it? Is it still safe to use?

    • Darryl

      Braggs’s is just hydrolysed soy protein, and a Tbsp will have 1.86 g protein, of which 26 mg will be methionine. For a 150 lb adult this would be only 2.5% of the estimated average requirement. The thing to worry about with Bragg’s or soy sauce is the sodium content: at 960 mg sodium that one Tbsp is 42% of the recommended maximum sodium intake of 2,300 mg for adults.

      • Toxins

        Sodium should ideally be kept below 1200-1500 mg.

  • TheBigPicture

    What about starving cancer by living in ketosis? Cancer cells need carbs right?

    • Toxins

      “While short-term carbohydrate restriction over a period of a week can result in a significant loss of weight (albeit mostly from water and glycogen stores), of serious concern is what potential exists for the following of this type of eating plan for longer periods of months to years. Complications such as heart arrhythmias, cardiac contractile function impairment, sudden death, osteoporosis, kidney damage, increased cancer risk, impairment of physical activity and lipid abnormalities can all be linked to long-term restriction of carbohydrates in the diet. The need to further explore and communicate the untoward side-effects of low-carbohydrate diets should be an important public health message from nutrition professionals.”
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14672862

      Ketogenic diets are strongly advised against.

  • Healthy

    Ironically, of all the meat I avoid, I always felt safe eating chicken and fish once in a great while. Maybe the high concentrations of methionine, that make chicken and fish the worst of the meats, are in the skin of the chicken and fish. However, on the other hand, chicken and fish do have higher amounts of protein so that may also explain the higher levels of this amino acid.

    • b00mer

      One boneless, skinless chicken breast, meat only, contains 1480 mg methionine.

      I only briefly checked but did not find an entry specifically stating skinless fish (since I think it’s assumed people don’t typically eat the skin?), but one can of tuna, which is definitely skinless, contains 1740 mg methionine.

      In terms of percentage of total protein, thus negating the point of them being “higher protein” foods (which they’re not really, they’re just more calorically dense), then methionine makes up 2.8% of the total protein for both. Compared to percentages in plant foods, even the plant foods confusingly labeled as “high methionine” by a source someone listed above, these values for chicken and fish are incredibly high. Reposted from my comment above, here are a few animal-based and plant-based percentages:

      Eggs: 3.2%
      Salmon: 2.8%
      Chicken: 2.8%
      Beef: 2.6%
      Broccoli: 1.6%
      Black beans: 1.5 %
      Garlic: 1.0%
      Lentils: 0.83%
      Onion: 0.12%

      So it stands that chicken and fish are indeed among the worst offenders, skin or no skin, and regardless of overall protein content.

    • Toxins

      Chicken and fish may be less healthy for other reasons including high levels arachidonic acid and pesticides.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/chicken/
      http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/fish/

  • Barry Honeycombe

    Another excellent article – keep up the good work. I have shared this on my blog. Anyone looking for plant-based recipes – please take a look – it’s called Plantalicious and can be found here – http://wp.me/P3EfqD-1

    There are recipes and videos – I hope you find them a source of inspiration if you are looking to increase your plant-based nutrition intake. Barry

  • Here

    How can you tell if it is in a supplement, if it’s an amino acid. All amino acid supplements? Vegan amino acid supplements? Other things?

  • LelaRose

    What do you think of coffee enemas? I had peritonial cancer and had surgery for it at UCSF. When Lugols solution is added to supplements, electrolyte balance would be ok, no? lelajosalynrose@yahoo.com

  • The deans mom

    Great Articles, say can you do one on Goat Milk. Some information I’ve seen say’s it’s a Blue Zone Food that is really good for you but if Animal products are bad then Goat Milk would fall under that category. I’d love to see how it stacks up against cows milk.

  • tbarrelier

    Is there a baseline total daily amount (mg) of methionine that one should aim for in cancer prevention? I keep myself to under 20g/day of carbs following a ketogenic diet. I am now aware that restricting methionine is also part of starving out cancer. It seems limiting both offers a reasonable and not onerous approach to cancer prevention. Any ideas?

  • Marckel

    So what about the methionine in Braggs amino acids?
    Avoid or not?

  • Rose

    I’ve occasionally used L-methionine 500mg daily to treat allergies since it effectively reduces histamine levels. Is L-methionine the same as methionine and should I discontinue taking it?

  • DanielFaster

    Here’s an interesting article with a possible reason for low protein vegan diets being cancer protective http://catalyticlongevity.org/prepub_archive/GCN2.pdf