Image Credit: Sally Plank

Best Food for MGUS to Prevent Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is one of our most dreaded cancers. It’s a cancer of our antibody-producing plasma cells, and is considered one of our most intractable blood diseases. The precursor disease is called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS). When it was named, it’s significance was undetermined, but now we know that multiple myeloma is almost always preceded by MGUS. This makes MGUS one of the most common premalignant disorders, with a prevalence of about 3% in the older white general population, and about 2 to 3 times that in African-American populations.

MGUS itself is asymptomatic, you don’t even know you have it until your doctor finds it incidentally doing routine bloodwork. But should it progress to multiple myeloma, you only have about four years to live. So, we need to find ways to treat MGUS early, before it turns into cancer. Unfortunately, no such treatment exists. Rather, patients are just placed in a kind of holding pattern with frequent check-ups. If all we’re going to do is watch and wait, researchers figured they might as well try some dietary changes.

One such dietary change is adding curcumin, the yellow pigment in the spice turmeric. Why curcumin? It’s relatively safe, considering that it has been consumed as a dietary spice for centuries. And, it kills multiple myeloma cells. In my video Turmeric Curcumin, MGUS, & Multiple Myeloma, you can see the unimpeded growth of four different cell lines of multiple myeloma. We start out with about 5000 cancer cells at the beginning of the week, which then doubles, triples, and quadruples in a matter of days. If we add a little bit of curcumin, growth is stunted. If we add a lot of curcumin, growth is stopped. This is in a petri dish, but it is exciting enough to justify trying curcumin in a clinical trial. And six years later, researchers did.

We can measure the progression of the disease by the rise in blood levels of paraprotein, which is what’s made by MGUS and myeloma cells. About 1 in 3 of the patients responded to the curcumin with dropping paraprotein levels, whereas there were no responses in the placebo group. These positive findings prompted researchers to commence a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial. The same kind of positive biomarker response was seen in both MGUS patients, as well as those with so-called “smoldering” multiple myeloma, an early stage of the cancer. These findings suggest that curcumin might have the potential to slow the disease process in patients, delaying or preventing the progression of MGUS to multiple myeloma. However, we won’t know for sure until longer larger studies are done.

The best way to deal with multiple myeloma is to not get it in the first place. In my 2010 video Meat & Multiple Myeloma, I profiled a study suggesting that vegetarians have just a quarter the risk of multiple myeloma compared to meat-eaters. Even just working with chicken meat may double one’s risk of multiple myeloma, the thinking being that cancers like leukemias, lymphomas, and myelomas may be induced by so-called zoonotic (animal-to-human) cancer-causing viruses found in both cattle and chickens. Beef, however, was not associated with multiple myeloma.

There are, however, some vegetarian foods we may want to avoid. Harvard researchers reported a controversial link between diet soda and multiple myeloma, implicating aspartame. Studies suggest french fries and potato chips should not be the way we get our vegetables, nor should we probably pickle them. While the intake of shallots, garlic, soy foods, and green tea was significantly associated with a reduced risk of multiple myeloma, intake of pickled vegetables three times a week or more was associated with increased risk.

For dietary links to other blood cancers, see EPIC Findings on Lymphoma.

The turmeric story just never seems to end. I recommend a quarter teaspoon a day:

Why might garlic and tea help? See Cancer, Interrupted: Garlic & Flavonoids and Cancer Interrupted, Green Tea.

More on the effects of NutraSweet in Aspartame and the Brain and acrylamide in Cancer Risk From French Fries.

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

Discuss

Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.


44 responses to “Best Food for MGUS to Prevent Multiple Myeloma

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  1. Already taking turmeric for all kinds of other things thanks to this site.

    Off topic question. If aluminum is associated with alzheimers do I need to be concerned about the metal packaging? The best nutritional yeast that I like with no additives comes in a silver lined bag. Upon questioning it turns out this is aluminum. After reading a couple of articles written by Dr. McDougall and his concern about not putting aluminum foil directly in contact with food should I be concerned about this packaging?

    Thanks so much for all that you and your staff do.




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  2. Hi Michael,

    Read Steven Novella’s blog on Curcuma:

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/curcumin-hype-vs-reality/

    He cites a systematic review from January 2017: “The Essential Medicinal Chemistry of Curcumin” that says:

    “This manuscript reviews the essential medicinal chemistry of curcumin and provides evidence that curcumin is an unstable, reactive, nonbioavailable compound and, therefore, a highly improbable lead.”

    Now, I like you, I bought and read your book, but I find that I cannot trust your information when you ignore important evidence and cherry-pick studies. You cite in vitro studies and a trial from 2012 with 36 subjects but ignore information that doesn’t fit the point you are trying to make.

    I just would like you to put the best information out there and that includes being more measured I think.

    Cheers,
    Marc




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    1. Marc, have you checked to see who paid for that study? Dr G does check to see if there is industrial money behind studies, which are often simply disguised marketing.




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      1. I’ve found the consensus of scientific opinion supports curcumin’s health benefits Problem is it’s not readily bioavailable and various curcumin products purport to be the most bioavailable. Proponents of curcumin recommend turmeric which has curcumin and other compounds that can have health benefits




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    2. That’s funny, I couldn’t find a single source of reference to a peer review scientific study in that entire web page. The single source quoted was from another web page that had no references. I would call that someone’s opinion. All the statements in Dr. Greger’s blog are directly linked to the original peer review literature.




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        1. To Marc – I have seen this particular piece of research before. And I have seen someone on this site cite it as “proof” that turmeric is unstable, etc.
          This is quite a lengthy piece of research. But if one reads through it, one discovers that the point of the research was to determine if curcurmin, a component of turmeric, would make a good drug candidate. It was being investigated to see if it could be pharmacologically designed to be put in a pill for research purposes. The conclusion states:
          “At first curcumin appeared to offer great potential for the development of a therapeutic form of NP(turmeric) that is classified as a GRAS material. (GRAS means generally regarded as safe). Unfortunately, no form of curcumin, or its closely related analogues appears to possess the properties required for a good drug candidate (chemical stability, high water solubility.”

          This piece of research was attempting to extract curcumin from the whole of the turmeric and figure out a way to optimize it into pill form for clinical research purposes. The conclusions of the researchers was that they could not find a way to stabilize the component, curcumin, from turmeric to use in this way. You are correct that the paper stated that it was a “highly improbable lead”. But you missed the rest of it – the paper states this research showed curcumin to be a highly improbable lead for incorporation into a drug-pill. The paper further states that turmeric could be considered for further research in a more holistic approach since the reductionist approach of the curcumin isolate didn’t show promise. If you follow Dr. Greger’s videos, he has made just exactly that same statement and conclusion – his states that research shows that curcumin isolate doesn’t show particular promise for its anti-cancer abililities but that turmeric – a whole food – works considerably better. Researchers have THOUGHT that curcumin was the magic component in turmeric. It is showing that perhaps it is not – a danger of reductinistic thinking which is the same point that Dr. Campbell makes as well. Dr. Greger and Campbell both make the point that we cannot make use of individual components of isolated chemicals in Nature. Nature put the whole of the whole food together for a reason – it works as a whole. This research you site exemplifies and supports that point exactly.
          Thank you.




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          1. Hi Rachel,

            Thank you for taking the time to comment on this.

            You say this:

            “Dr. Greger and Campbell both make the point that we cannot make use of individual components of isolated chemicals in Nature. Nature put the whole of the whole food together for a reason – it works as a whole.”

            This is a hypothesis at best and an appeal to nature fallacy at worse. We can’t assume that nature is here to help us.

            Interesting blog by Edzard Ernst on turmeric:

            http://edzardernst.com/2016/06/turmeric-lots-of-potential-but-beware-of-the-hype/

            Where he says among other things:

            “As I said, turmeric is fascinating and promising, but such hype is clearly counter-productive and dangerous.”

            “What emerges from a critical reading of the evidence is that turmeric has potential in several different areas. Generally speaking, clinical trials are still thin on the ground, not of sufficient rigor and therefore not conclusive. In other words, it is far too early to state or imply that we all should rush to the next health food store and buy the supplements.”

            “On the contrary, at this stage, I would even warn people not to be seduced by the unprofessional hype and wait until we know more – much more. ”

            “One recent review cautioned: …its extremely low oral bioavailability hampers its application as therapeutic agent.”




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            1. Hi Marc
              “This is a hypothesis at best and an appeal to nature fallacy at worse. We can’t assume that nature is here to help us”. No, not an hypothesis but an observation – vitamins are clearly seen to ‘do something in the body’, vitamins are absorbed into the body from compounds, vitamins as isolates do not work in the same way as their natural counterparts…these are simple facts you don’t really have to drag nature into it. I don’t think you can observe nature as helping us anyway like it were conscious of what we are and is separate from us and acting in some paternalistic fashion. You acknowledge it as something so tell my why you can assume that we cannot make assumptions (actually observations) about nature? We need to remind ourselves that in calling nature nature we are only naming a mystery but paradoxically ‘see it at work’. There is mechanism in nature but we have to acknowledge that we don’t have the wit to comprehend how it can be so. Like Wittgenstein said ‘its like banging your head up against the ceiling and expecting it not to be there’




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    3. There are thousands of studies proving the benefit of turmeric. And there are thousands of testimonies of individuals who benefit from turmeric. Just because a person writes in his book that turmeric is unstable and of no use does not make it so. Maybe, the person you are referring to is the one that is cherry picking research papers. At least, the pro turmeric people have a whole lot of anecdotal evidence to go along with positive studies.




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      1. The study Dr. Greger cites starts with 36 patients, and ended 25 patients at the mid-point and 18 at the end. That means 50% of subjects dropped out of the study. Also, the conclusions are very cautious and do not establish any preventive or curative effects.

        I am not for or against turmeric or curcuma, I just want to have reliable information that evaluates the best science.

        And if there are “thousands of studies proving the benefit of turmeric”, can you recommend a meta-analysis or systematic review that supports this view?

        Testimonials and anecdotal evidence is a starting point of any research but is not reliable evidence to support the use of turmeric for any health condition compared to clinical trials.




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            1. Black Pepper Extract (piper nigrum standardized to 95% eperine,)brand name Bioperine® or Meriva® Turmeric Complex (proprietary blend of turmeric rhizome extract and phosphatidylcholine) allegedly increase the absorption of Turmeric dramatically. I use a powdered generic Turmeric powder in my smoothies along w/freshly ground black pepper to assist in absorption. Surprisingly, given everything put in the smoothie, it doesn’t seem to adversely affect the taste.




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              1. Yes I do exactly the same with my banana smoothy… but have been wondering about proportions that are not over kill with the black pepper. Any thoughts much appreciated.




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  3. Question about the pickled vegetables: does this refer to fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut, as well as salt and/or vinegar pickled vegetables which are not fermented (refrigerator pickles)? I saw that the article mentioned “brined pickles” and just wanted to confirm. Thank you.




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    1. Sauerkraut, which is fermented, is very nutritious AFAIK, particularly its beneficial bacteria, Problem is commercial sauerkraut is usually pasteurized which destroys the bacteria. Trader Joe’s sells a sauerkraut product that says it’s not pasteurized.




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  4. Are fermented vegetables ok? Some people refer to fermented veggies a pickled. This is done by using a salt water solution.
    Regular pickles are made by using vinegar. Are you refering to vinegar pickles?
    Thanks for the clarification.




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    1. Hi Helen, NF Moderator here!
      So, I found an article it looks like the association between higher risk of multiple myeloma and pickled vegetables is when they are “brined vegetable, pickle or sauerkraut, pickled Chinese cabbage, pickled potherb mustard, salted cabbage, etc”. So it looks like both pickling with vinegar and fermentation with water may increase risk. Hope this clears it up a bit?
      Have you checked out this video on MGUS and multiple myeloma?




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  5. Interesting story on tumeric from the BBC series ‘Trust me, I’m a Doctor’ – Could turmeric really boost your health? They found a benefit from a teaspoon a day. I think they did a follow up where same impact was not found on 1/2 teaspoon, but I couldn’t find the link. Wonder what Dr. G thinks of upping his recommended dose???

    My experience with all spices is that if you slowly increase the amount over weeks and months you don’t notice the difference as your tastebud receptors adjust. First time a dash of cloves in my oatmeal was overwhelming, now 4 dashes and don’t even notice, etc.
    Thanks Dr. G for transforming my life!




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  6. Dr Greger,
    Please shed some light the issues raised in Marc’s comments.
    After reading further on curcumin, I found contrary statements that bring doubt to your findings.
    It would help a lot if you address the issues raised.
    Thanks.




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    1. Dr. Greger doesn’t recommend you get curcumin- he always recommends the turmeric because of the synergistic effects of all the phytonutrients in it. Also there are hundreds, literally hundreds, of studies that support either curcumin or turmeric as effective. There isn’t a balance of evidence, it’s pretty one sided…




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  7. Does anyone know if turmeric benefits the less common form of MGUS, involving the IgM protein, that can cause Waldenstrom’s Disease?




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    1. Hi Barbara,
      Leon is probably right since Waldenstrom’s disease is a similar disease to Multiple Myeloma, in that they both affect the immune function. Having read a few reviews on the use of turmeric and curcumin, they do often mention Waldenstrom’s disease along with multiple myeloma. However, I cannot find a trial that has look at Waldenstrom’s patients as the main subjects for testing turmeric. Just be aware that too much of anything without supervision can be dangerous, including turmeric as in this article!
      Sorry I cannot give a clearer answer, hopefully one day the research will tell us more!

      Reviews:
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2727780/
      http://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/15/18/5917.full




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      1. Thank you, Eleanor, for your comments. I was aware of the caution for turmeric, but will carefully read through the article. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to make sense of all the scientific/medical jargon. And I will say, too, that research/recommendations for the lesser-known MGUS that can lead to Waldenstrom’s seem pretty nonexistant. You’d think there’s be more studies.

        Appreciate the post.




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  8. I’m curious about the pickled vegetables. What is it in pickled vegetables that causes the increased risk of MM? I use a homemade pickling juice that does not contain salt or sugar, just vinegar, verjus and spices. I can’t see why any of those things would be a problem. Please inform. Thank you.




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  9. I have high regard for Dr. Gregor and Nutrition Facts, but this article about multiple myeloma (MM) is off the mark. The death sentence that someone diagnosed with MM
    lives on average 4-years is outdated information. Granted, since newer drugs have been available (e.g., Velcade, Revlamid in combination with Dexamthasone), the lives of people with MM has been extended much, much longer. Check-out studies being done by Dr. Paul Richardson at the Dana Farber Institute in Brookline, MA, among other researchers who are treating patients with this disease and involved with the development of a series of protocols that extend lives. Find out which treatment program is keeping Dan Rather alive. He’s kind of the poster patient for MM and currently available treatments responsible for keeping the disease in check for decades. Thanks for reading this because your article triggered a very negative response from me and I wanted to express what has been my personal experience.




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  10. Dr. Greger said, “These findings suggest that curcumin might have the potential to slow the disease…” Not sure where, but I remember seeing some research cited that found whole turmeric was actually more potent than the extracted curcumin. Has anyone at NutritionFacts.org come across that? Thanks!




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  11. Dr. Greger, Thanks again for your incredible videos and information. I have a question about the pickled vegetables you mention at the end of the MGUS article. You state that they increase the risk of cancer. I thought that pickled vegetables would be a way of getting probiotics and that we should increase our intake of pickled foods, including vegetables. Is the difference between pickling done at home and pickled foods with preservatives bought at the store? Thanks for your help.




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  12. This post is a little irresponsible. You say that people with multiple myeloma have only four years to live, but there are many kinds of MM, some are not so aggressive.

    Also, your comment does not specify that “untreated” MM may lead to an early death, but when treated many patients can live for 20 years or more. It is not so cut and dried as you state it.

    Nevertheless, I appreciate the attention you have given to this disease, and I hope you can modify your comments when you get a chance.




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    1. Thanks for posting your comment, Gail. My husband was diagnosed 6-years ago with MM and is successfully being treated, living a fairly normal life. Do you or anyone close to you have MM? Sincerely, Janice Christiansen




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  13. I thought that foods like raw sauerkraut were good for my digestive system and that they contained the probiotics that I need. Should I stop eating sauerkraut because it is pickled?




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  14. I would really like to know what the distinction is between pickled and fermented vegetables, if any. Is it the ingredients such as salt, sugar, vinegar, spices? Or in the process of heating? Raw vs cooked? I keep seeing articles that promote fermented foods frequently. I would like to have some clarification on this.
    Thank You




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