• Has anyone researched nutrition in cancer patients, i.e., what to stay away from, what to concentrate on eating, such as vegetarian foods?

    Asked by ev814 on Sunday, February 10, 2013

    Has anyone researched nutrition in cancer patients, i.e., what to stay away from, what to concentrate on eating, such as vegetarian foods?

    I have read a couple of books on the subject and wondered if others have found some of the information confusing. Oncologist says "Eat anything, organic or non-organic," while nutritionists in books say "Avoid sugar, too much red meats, and raw foods."

    4 Answers from the Community

    4 answers
    • nancyjac's Avatar

      I am a nutritionist and yes, I have. And my bottom line is that the same healthy and balanced diet recommended for all people is the one that is best for cancer patients as well. There are no foods that either cause or prevent cancer. A substantially vegetarian is a good thing, but for many people the vegan protein choices are too limited and there are many micro-nutrients we need that are only available in animal food.

      Oncologists are not dietitians. They deal with patients who have lost their appetites due to chemo affecting the way food tastes. So naturally they will say eat anything and I agree with that completely while in active chemo treatment. The whole organic thing is a different issue altogether. Some foods easily absorb pesticides but most don't. So from a health standpoint, the organic movement is more of a political and environmental issue than a health issue.

      Avoiding sugar is impossible because everything we eat is converted into sugar since that is the only form in which our bodies can use for fuel. What nutritionists say is avoid adding additional refined (i.e. overly processed) sugar....big difference. Any meat in moderation is fine. Some foods are fine raw and others can be harmful eaten raw.

      I think the most confusing aspect in the food arena is trying to separate hype, politics, and fads, from solid science based nutrition. Food is a basic necessity. Usually when anyone starts throwing around words like organic, natural, raw, super, magic, etc. it becomes more about hype and less about logic..

      over 3 years ago
    • Nomadicme's Avatar

      In mice, a low calorie diet makes cancer grow less slowly. There's an ongoing radiation therapy in BC trial which is being given along with a low cal diet, can't wait to see results. Here's a review on the issue: http://www.jeffersonhospital.org/news/2013/february/dieting-on-radiation-therapy-may-improve-outcomes-for-breast-cancer-patients

      over 3 years ago
    • FreeBird's Avatar
    • leepenn's Avatar

      These are such important questions! And, unfortunately, our knowledge in this area is sorely lacking...

      You might consider checking out a book called: The China Study.
      In this book, the author describes data that strongly support a mostly vegan diet.

      There is NOTHING you cannot get, from a nutritional perspective, from a quality vegetarian diet. If you choose to go vegan, the primary concern is vitamin B-12, which is difficult to get from a strict vegan diet.

      At the end of the day, eating a wide variety of plant-based foods is the way to go. Avoiding highly processed foods (refined sugars, white flours, etc...) is a good good idea. Avoiding plastic plastic plastic, I believe, is also smart. Unfortunately, molecules that can cause problems with our hormones are often found in plastics - in small amounts, but those small amounts are affecting us.

      At the end of the day, a cookie with some eggs in it or a bread made with a bit of butter won't make a hoot of difference (and in fact will probably make you just a little bit happy). But, the research seems to point very strongly to a diet composed of nearly all plants as the best choice for our bodies.

      So, I'm like 99% vegan now, after decades of being a vegetarian. My primary concern is dairy. The more I learn about consuming the milk of another animal in adulthood, the more I think that dairy is just not a good idea for adult humans! However, if faced with a dairy-free waffle that has some egg in it? I'm in! Anyway, I am not the sort of vegan that gets super uptight about every last detail about the food I am eating. I'm careful... but I'm not going to cause myself major stress over it. At home, it's easy because it's our kitchen.

      It's easy up here in Minneapolis, where we have fantastic food coops and other excellent sources of very good food. I rarely have problems finding excellent and well balanced vegan food. Plus, we have a strong vegan and vegetarian population up here, so loads of restaurants serve fantastic vegan food. On travel, things get a bit more challenging... but again, I wish to keep stress at bay... so I do the best I can without sweating the small stuff. Does that make sense?

      Everyone asks about protein... Well, guess what. People in the US eat WAY MORE PROTEIN THAN OUR BODIES NEED! If you enjoy things like nuts and beans and whole grains, you won't have any trouble at all. Add to that things like tofu and tempeh and seitan and mock duck and .... If you track the foods you eat on a mostly balanced vegan diet, you'll find that you'll get complete proteins just by eating a variety of foods... and you'll get more protein than you realize.

      The only supplements I take are vitamin b12... and vitamin D (because we live so far north, we don't get strong enough sunlight in the winter to cause vitamin D production in our skin, which we cover up anyway because it's ... well ... cold).

      Well, that's my story. I've done quite a lot of research in this area. I too have found that the nutritional advice available is ... lacking. My oncologist is the lead researcher on the clinical trial through which I was treated, and he told me that there is basically no place in the human diet for non-vegan foods - except - he said - maybe small amounts of fish. And, he went on to tell me that a nearly-all-vegan diet is really the most healthful. Now, I also include whiskey and beer in that diet, so that's probably suboptimal... but, well, LIFE must be LIVED as well, no?

      A little more about me - I'm vegan - I'm a mom - I'm a bike racer - and I'm a totally geeky science professor. Plus, I race bikes, and I'm pretty darn fast. Now that I'm almost one year from my last date of treatment (surgery after 5 months of chemo), I'm getting fast again and feeling strong again.

      Good luck. I hope you are able to find information that helps you figure out... what's for dinner?

      PS - there's some seriously fantastic vegan dark chocolate these days - some truly GREAT vegan chocolate - equal exchange... and divine chocolate.

      over 3 years ago

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