Veggies vs. Cancer

Veggies vs. Cancer
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A landmark study pitted 34 common vegetables against 8 different lines of human cancer cells.

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But anyway, back to beans. In terms of nutrient density—nutrients per calorie—are beans the most nutritious class of whole foods? Or is it fruit? Nuts and seeds? Vegetables? Or whole grains? What should go on the base of a healthy eating pyramid? Beans, fruits, nuts, veggies, or grains? Definitely vegetables—but which are the healthiest ones?

A major advance was made this year ranking vegetables. Graphs like this, which I’ve shared over the years, that compare the antioxidant power of foods, were all based on very primitive methods—basically, just measuring how much a food slows down an oxidation reaction between two chemicals in a machine. That was the best we had. But it required a leap of faith that what was happening in the test tube could be extrapolated to what might actually happen in living human tissue.

This year, though, a landmark study was published, pitting 34 common vegetables against eight different types of human cancers. Breast cancer, brain tumors, kidney cancer, lung cancer, childhood brain tumors, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, and stomach cancer.

Let’s look at breast cancer—I’ll cover up the answers. What’s being measured is tumor cell proliferation. Here’s the control. You drip some water on a human breast tumor, and nothing happens; it’s still powering away at 100% growth rate. And these seven vegetables appear useless against breast cancer—no different than placebo.

But these six cut the cancer growth rate in half. And these five at the end stopped cancer growth completely; stopped these tumor cells dead in their tracks.

The take-home message #1 from this new data is that we need to eat a variety of vegetables. Take radishes, for example; they do nothing against pancreatic cancer. In fact, if anything, they might actually accelerate growth. But against stomach cancer, they completely eliminated tumor cell growth. On the other hand, orange bell peppers don’t do much for stomach cancer, but can cut prostate cancer growth by more than 75%. So we need to eat a variety of vegetables, because they each tend to target different cancers.

If you’re particularly concerned about a specific cancer—like if you have a strong family history of breast cancer—then you can narrow it down, and really nail those five or six veggies every day that excel at targeting breast tissue. But otherwise, to fight against any kind of cancer, we’ve got to eat a portfolio of vegetables to cover all our bases.

 

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 veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

But anyway, back to beans. In terms of nutrient density—nutrients per calorie—are beans the most nutritious class of whole foods? Or is it fruit? Nuts and seeds? Vegetables? Or whole grains? What should go on the base of a healthy eating pyramid? Beans, fruits, nuts, veggies, or grains? Definitely vegetables—but which are the healthiest ones?

A major advance was made this year ranking vegetables. Graphs like this, which I’ve shared over the years, that compare the antioxidant power of foods, were all based on very primitive methods—basically, just measuring how much a food slows down an oxidation reaction between two chemicals in a machine. That was the best we had. But it required a leap of faith that what was happening in the test tube could be extrapolated to what might actually happen in living human tissue.

This year, though, a landmark study was published, pitting 34 common vegetables against eight different types of human cancers. Breast cancer, brain tumors, kidney cancer, lung cancer, childhood brain tumors, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, and stomach cancer.

Let’s look at breast cancer—I’ll cover up the answers. What’s being measured is tumor cell proliferation. Here’s the control. You drip some water on a human breast tumor, and nothing happens; it’s still powering away at 100% growth rate. And these seven vegetables appear useless against breast cancer—no different than placebo.

But these six cut the cancer growth rate in half. And these five at the end stopped cancer growth completely; stopped these tumor cells dead in their tracks.

The take-home message #1 from this new data is that we need to eat a variety of vegetables. Take radishes, for example; they do nothing against pancreatic cancer. In fact, if anything, they might actually accelerate growth. But against stomach cancer, they completely eliminated tumor cell growth. On the other hand, orange bell peppers don’t do much for stomach cancer, but can cut prostate cancer growth by more than 75%. So we need to eat a variety of vegetables, because they each tend to target different cancers.

If you’re particularly concerned about a specific cancer—like if you have a strong family history of breast cancer—then you can narrow it down, and really nail those five or six veggies every day that excel at targeting breast tissue. But otherwise, to fight against any kind of cancer, we’ve got to eat a portfolio of vegetables to cover all our bases.

 

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 veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

35 responses to “Veggies vs. Cancer

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  1. Dr. Greger,

    I was interested in your take on what the abstract of this cited paper says with respect to antioxidant levels of the vegetables tested and the anticancer affects they have. I’m actually very surprised!! The abstract says:

    “The antiproliferative effect of vegetables was specific to cells of cancerous origin and was found to be **largely independent** of their antioxidant properties.” [my emphasis]

    So, what this seems to me to be saying is that we may not want to be focusing on the antioxidant levels of plant-based foods afterall (at least not for possible anti-cancer affects)…??




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    1. Hello Maybush1,

      I believe the purpose of antioxidants is for protection of the cells key components, such as the DNA and mitochondria, ensuring long term health and stability while these specific foods that have anticancer enzymes are more for a short term approach directly stopping any cancer from growing, and of course, eating a lot of these foods everyday makes short term last for a lifetime!
      Check out these videos on antioxidants for further details.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/repairing-dna-damage/
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/research-into-reversing-aging/
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/mitochondrial-theory-of-aging/




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  2. Here’s the thing – there is no magic to vegetables. People who have cancer and remove refined sugars from their diet significantly decrease the #1 fuel source of virtually all cancers – and that is glucose.

    But to combat cancer even better, adopting a VLCKD is the best choice. This would entail removing virtually all carbohydrate from the diet.

    http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/7/1/33

    This deals with brain cancer but since virtually all cancers use glucose as their fuel source, a VLCKD should work in the same manner and other research papers have shown such.

    Other resources:

    http://www.carbohydratescankill.com/3010/there-role-for-carbohydrate-restriction-treatment-prevention-of-cancer-yes-of-course

    There is no magic to vegetables. There is just much harm in processed sugars and high blood glycemia.




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    1. Frederick
      Its funny you keep talking about “fueling” the cancer with glucose when ALL our cells run on glucose. Again, eliminating carbohydrates does not make any sense. Your health outlook is severely skewed to viewing all carbohydrates as bad, which is plain wrong. It has been shown that cancer proliferation does in fact cease with certain vegetables.




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      1. That paper shows how certain plant components affect cancer in a lab, not in the human body.

        You said:

        “Its funny you keep talking about “fueling” the cancer with glucose when ALL our cells run on glucose.”

        No they don’t. They can, but not always. They can run just fine on fat and ketone bodies – better in fact. And glucose can and is made via gluconeogenesis. No need for carbs in the diet at all in order to obtain all the glucose you need. I’m amazed you don’t know that.

        And cancer cells DO feed on glucose. Have you not read the research? Allow me to start you on your journey:

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2394295/

        “Again, eliminating carbohydrates does not make any sense.”

        It makes perfect sense to keep blood glucose levels normal best done by limiting carbohydrate intake. And it sure matters a lot to the diabetic.

        “Your health outlook is severely skewed to viewing all carbohydrates as bad, which is plain wrong.”

        Strawman. I never said that. I’ve said many times that most vegetables and some seasonal fruits are quite good for you. It’s the grains that need to go.

        “It has been shown that cancer proliferation does in fact cease with certain vegetables.”

        Really? Show me the research that supports this.

        And again, the idea that vegetables are the reason for a slowing of cancer fail to take into account that when people have cancer and go vegan, they also remove all the junk food from their diets. THAT is what is most responsible for the slowing down of cancer not the vegetables themselves.

        I challenge you to put up your most recent blood panel. Here are my fasting numbers from 5/2011 (I’m 50 yrs. old):

        HDL: 83
        HDL3: 61
        LDL: 174
        LDL Pattern: A (large buoyant)
        HbA1c: 5.6
        Triglycerides direct: 57
        CRP: 1.0




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        1. 2 links Frederick,
          http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/atkins-diet-trouble-keeping-it-up/
          http://www.atkinsexposed.org/

          Regardless if it was in a lab, the fact that these vegetables affected the cancer cells themselves, to the extent of stopping the growth, sends a powerful message. Let’s see beef extracts do that in a lab.

          The paleo diet is not supported by any credible health foundation, for good reason. Ketosis is harmful in the long run, as explained thoroughly by Dr. Greger, i dont need to do any copy and pasting for that. From what i understand by your response, u view vegetables as vitamins and water. Antioxidants and phytonutrients in vegetables are what makes them so healthy and helps prevent cancer. Go look at the many studies Dr. Greger cites from this link
          http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/slowing-the-growth-of-cancer-3/
          Showing the marked decrease in cancer risk with vegetables consumption and how meat significantly increases this risk.
          I am assuming since you think grains are so bad that the past rural Japanese populations, that had most of their diet comprised of rice, had short lifespans and poor health? No, they thrived. They were known to be typically centenarians. Same story for the Okinawan.

          P.S. I have never had a blood test taken (last time i remember I was 6 years old), I have not had any bodily issues.




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    2. I read the study at Fredrick link and I could see no mention of any advantage of the “KD” diet – it grew the cancer as fast as the “SD”. “While CT-2A growth was rapid with the unrestricted feeding of either
      diet, a moderate 40% restriction of either diet significantly reduced
      growth.”
      Only calorie restriction slowed the growth of the cancer, on either the “SD” or the “KD”. Or did I miss something?




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  3. Hi Michael or any volunteer,
    I want to know if it’s possible to have the complete article cited in this video. It will be useful for me.
    Anne-Marie Roy




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  4. Dr. Gregor, first of all, thank you! Love the site!

    In this video you didn’t reveal the full lifting of the vegetables and their respective rankings in the charts relative to different cancers. Do you address that else where? Would love to see full charts with veggies listed. Thanks.




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  5. Dr. Greger,

    I pulled the paper you cited. Figure 1
    puzzles me. Yes, garlic kills all tumor cells. But I also see that
    orange bell peppers and radish make pancreatic carcinoma worse (even if
    you account for the error). The same goes for jalapeno and tomato in
    case of lung cancer. Does this mean we should stop eating these
    vegetables?

    Thanks.




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    1. No, of course not! This is all in vitro which means outside of the body. These vegetables are good guidelines but they are not solid proof that cancer will completely stop in their presence in vivo until further studies are done. Keep eating your bell peppers and jalapenos with a peace of mind.




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  6. Dr. Greger,

    My question is about the study(ies) relating to brain tumors and spinach and beet roots demonstrating anticancer effects. Did the study(ies) include oligodendrogliomas?

    Thank you for posting these videos–they are very informative!




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  7. My son is 25 and sadly just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He is having 5 weeks aggressive chemo and then Whipple surgery. I just started him on a whole foods plant based diet with two fresh green juices a day. A big raw salad and lightly steamed cruciferous veggies with fresh garlic or fresh garlic dressing. Is there anything else I should feed him? He has beans and hole grains and sweet potatoes too. I need to get as much tumor fighting food in his body to combat the cancer.




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  8. As much as I’m a fan, I don’t see the connection between the effect of these vegetables on cancer outside the human body. It’s quite a leap for me to accept that the outcome of these petri dish studies have anything to do with what goes on in our bodies. There may be an influence but then… how do we know that in a real bodily context the other veggies don’t have a powerful effect as well. I want to believe it and I’m excited to eat more of the powerful veggies, but I can’t help but doubt the validity of this science. (Again, you take a simple lab context and correlate this to an immensely more complicated human body context.) Please, I’d like to think otherwise.




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  9. What does the study mean by “living human cancers”? Where these in living human bodies or outside them? The earlier studies required a leap of faith, why don’t these studies also require a leap of faith? Don’t get me wrong, I tend to want to believe it. But my mind requires me to question this…




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  10. Author George Johnson has just published a book entitled The Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine’s Deepest Mystery in which he apparently (I haven’t read the book yet) claims that “large-scale studies have failed to show a strong relationship between consuming more fruits and vegetables and a lower incidence of cancer.” This quote is from a Mother Jones magazine article on the book, and it goes on to cite how “clinical trials using vitamin supplements have actually shown increased risk of cancer in certain populations, and have cast doubt on the significance of micronutrients in reducing your overall mortality.”

    Do you have any comments on this? I’d expect the book to have a more nuanced discussion; perhaps the Mother Jones article conflated consumption of vitamin supplements with consumption of whole vegetables containing those vitamins, which, from my understanding of your research reviews, are two very different modalities?




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  11. Just diagnosed with stage 2c prostate cancer that. I have been basically 95% gluten free, meat fee, dairy free for a year but am evidently losing the battle. I am being told I will need either surgery & radiation, or hormone treatment with 2 types of radiation therapy. Please suggest nutrition resources specific to fighting and recovering from this type of cancer.




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  12. Hello. I’m looking for any info regarding plant based approaches regarding pituitary gland tumors. I have read a small amount that turmeric/curcumin have potential benefits but if anyone knows more-specifically about this or any other helpful info on the subject, I would greatly appreciate your feedback. Best, Dan




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    1. Hi Dan, the primary problem dealing with what effects the brain is an entity known as the “blood brain barrier”. Very few molecules cross this barrier from the main blood curculation other than glucose and ketones, the two molecules that the brain uses to fuel itself. That said, there is more and more research coming out each day about how chemical reactions in the gut produce signaling chemicals that effect how our brains work, like seratonin. One can imagine that anything that would in general reduce inflammation elsewhere in the body would benefit the brain via these same pathways. Interestingly turmeric as an antiinlammatory agent is great to reduce inflammation in the gut when taken alone as it is not readily absorbed so it passes through the entire gut. If systemic anti- inflammorty properties are what you are aiming for – like for arthritis, etc… then taking the turmeric with pepper to enhance absorption into the blood stream is a good plan.

      Typically, a tumor in the pituitary region can encroach upon other vital nerves, such as the optic nerve. Most often radiation and surgery are the inky definitive treatments. Best wishes.




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