Diet and Lifestyle for Cancer Prevention and Survival

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What kind of diet should cancer patients eat?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Cancer prevalence is predicted to continue to increase, but the good news is that between 30 and 50 percent of the most common cancers might be preventable through diet and lifestyle changes. Take breast cancer, for example, the most common female internal cancer diagnosis in the United States, and the second leading cause of female cancer death after lung cancer. But “there is a growing body of evidence that breast cancer incidence can be reduced with an overall healthy lifestyle, which includes a high-quality diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes”––like beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils.

Greater adherence to a more Mediterranean-style diet was associated with a lower risk of cancer mortality, including less breast cancer. An analysis of the individual components of the Mediterranean diet revealed that the protective effects appear to be most attributable to eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, contributing to mounting evidence that a plant-based diet is the most beneficial dietary pattern for breast cancer survivors. Wait; the same diet that can help you prevent cancer can also help you survive cancer? That’s one of the 10 recommendations from the prestigious American Institute for Cancer Research. After a cancer diagnosis, follow the same recommendations to maintain a healthy weight; exercise; eat a diet rich in four things: whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and beans. But limit fast food and processed junk. And limit consumption of meats, soda, and alcohol.

Okay, but does adherence to these guidelines actually translate into less cancer? Yes, it substantially reduced the risk of total cancer, providing robust evidence that the guidelines for cancer prevention should be widely disseminated in society. About half the folks were failing the healthy weight and physical activity departments, but more than 90 percent were failing on eating enough plant foods, or limiting enough meat and processed junk. But I guess the glass 10 percent full interpretation is that given that many people do not meet the recommendations, there is a great potential for cancer prevention.

Specific to breast cancer risk, women who met most of those recommendations only had half the breast cancer risk, compared to women who only nailed a couple. If you could only do one of those recommendations, limiting animal foods seemed most protective.

Adherence to the recommendations was also associated with higher survival in cancer patients who already have cancer. This was also true for older female cancer survivors, most of whom were suffering from breast cancer.

A good proxy for whole plant food intake is dietary fiber, since it’s not found in animal foods, and is depleted or completely absent in processed foods. And higher dietary fiber consumption was associated with a 37 percent lower risk of dying from all causes put together, and 28 percent lower risk of dying specifically from breast cancer among breast cancer survivors. And it didn’t take much. There was like a 10 percent drop in death risk for every five grams a day increment in dietary fiber intake. That’s just like a cup of oatmeal or broccoli, or a third of a cup of beans. A cancer diagnosis may provide a “teachable moment” for cancer survivors to make positive changes in their health behaviors.

Even more importantly, higher fiber intake may help prevent breast cancer in the first place. Yes, fiber could help directly by feeding your good gut flora, which then produce anti-inflammatory compounds, or it could just be an indicator of total whole plant-food intake.

Adherence to the cancer prevention recommendations isn’t just associated with higher survival in cancer patients and lower risk of dying from cancer, but lower risk of dying overall. That’s the beauty of eating a more plant-based diet. The same diet that’s anti-cancer is also anti-heart disease, and even, apparently, anti-lung disease. Conclusion: Results of this study suggest that following the cancer prevention diet and lifestyle recommendations could significantly increase longevity.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Cancer prevalence is predicted to continue to increase, but the good news is that between 30 and 50 percent of the most common cancers might be preventable through diet and lifestyle changes. Take breast cancer, for example, the most common female internal cancer diagnosis in the United States, and the second leading cause of female cancer death after lung cancer. But “there is a growing body of evidence that breast cancer incidence can be reduced with an overall healthy lifestyle, which includes a high-quality diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes”––like beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils.

Greater adherence to a more Mediterranean-style diet was associated with a lower risk of cancer mortality, including less breast cancer. An analysis of the individual components of the Mediterranean diet revealed that the protective effects appear to be most attributable to eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, contributing to mounting evidence that a plant-based diet is the most beneficial dietary pattern for breast cancer survivors. Wait; the same diet that can help you prevent cancer can also help you survive cancer? That’s one of the 10 recommendations from the prestigious American Institute for Cancer Research. After a cancer diagnosis, follow the same recommendations to maintain a healthy weight; exercise; eat a diet rich in four things: whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and beans. But limit fast food and processed junk. And limit consumption of meats, soda, and alcohol.

Okay, but does adherence to these guidelines actually translate into less cancer? Yes, it substantially reduced the risk of total cancer, providing robust evidence that the guidelines for cancer prevention should be widely disseminated in society. About half the folks were failing the healthy weight and physical activity departments, but more than 90 percent were failing on eating enough plant foods, or limiting enough meat and processed junk. But I guess the glass 10 percent full interpretation is that given that many people do not meet the recommendations, there is a great potential for cancer prevention.

Specific to breast cancer risk, women who met most of those recommendations only had half the breast cancer risk, compared to women who only nailed a couple. If you could only do one of those recommendations, limiting animal foods seemed most protective.

Adherence to the recommendations was also associated with higher survival in cancer patients who already have cancer. This was also true for older female cancer survivors, most of whom were suffering from breast cancer.

A good proxy for whole plant food intake is dietary fiber, since it’s not found in animal foods, and is depleted or completely absent in processed foods. And higher dietary fiber consumption was associated with a 37 percent lower risk of dying from all causes put together, and 28 percent lower risk of dying specifically from breast cancer among breast cancer survivors. And it didn’t take much. There was like a 10 percent drop in death risk for every five grams a day increment in dietary fiber intake. That’s just like a cup of oatmeal or broccoli, or a third of a cup of beans. A cancer diagnosis may provide a “teachable moment” for cancer survivors to make positive changes in their health behaviors.

Even more importantly, higher fiber intake may help prevent breast cancer in the first place. Yes, fiber could help directly by feeding your good gut flora, which then produce anti-inflammatory compounds, or it could just be an indicator of total whole plant-food intake.

Adherence to the cancer prevention recommendations isn’t just associated with higher survival in cancer patients and lower risk of dying from cancer, but lower risk of dying overall. That’s the beauty of eating a more plant-based diet. The same diet that’s anti-cancer is also anti-heart disease, and even, apparently, anti-lung disease. Conclusion: Results of this study suggest that following the cancer prevention diet and lifestyle recommendations could significantly increase longevity.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Doctor's Note

My forthcoming book is How Not to Age, and then my next will be on cancer survival. Even if I work on it full-time, I don’t expect my cancer survival book to be out until 2025 at the earliest. In the meanwhile, I must have hundreds of videos on cancer available now. Here are a few to get you started, and, if you want to see them all, check out the cancer topic page:

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here. Read our important information about translations here.

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