How do we know if this is true? Can you eat to starve cancer? The science says Yes! A post by Naomi Hallum.
In The Times this week, there was a thought-provoking interview with Dr. Kristi Funk, LA’s go-to cancer doctor and breast surgeon to the likes of Angelina Jolie, Sheryl Crow and Ellen Pompeo.
What Funk discusses in that interview will likely have left many people feeling the way that I feel, which is pretty frustrated, because if everything that Dr. Funk is saying and practicing is true then why aren’t more doctors discussing the power of nutrition with their patients? Why aren’t they telling us how we can inhibit cancer genes and halt the progression of cancer in our bodies through the food we eat? Why, when there’s apparently all this scientific proof that suggests otherwise, are we still being told by most medical professionals that it’s okay to eat animal products in moderation? And why-oh-why are doctors prescribing preventative breast surgeries when, as Funk contends, “up to 90% of the risk factors for the disease lie in our control”?
Dr. Funk argues that numerous medical studies make it “crystal clear that the body’s cellular response to animal protein and fat is nothing but dangerous”. So yes, it’s hard not to feel frustrated that so few doctors and cancer organizations are acknowledging what Funk calls “the biggest lifestyle risk factor for breast cancer”: nutrition.
How can Dr. Funk’s claims be true?
It’s understandable that most of society has doubts about the carcinogenic (cancer-promoting) qualities of animal products and the cancer-fighting properties of plant-based diets. The information out there is often conflicting and, if our doctor doesn’t know what’s best for us, then who or what is there left to trust?
To that question, I would answer “science”: the science of how we grow cells, how our DNA (our genes) express themselves in our cells, how cells mutate and form clusters, and how those microscopic clusters progress into detectable cancer. When we understand how cells grow, and how different foods can either inhibit or activate the development of cancer cells, then the importance that nutrition plays in keeping us healthy becomes more plausible.
With that in mind, we need to know more about a physiological process called angiogenesis.
A few years ago, Doctor William Li gave an educational TED Talk on the subject of angiogenesis that posed the question: “Can we eat to starve cancer?” The answer to that questions was “yes”, and Dr. Li’s scientifically verified explanation of how we can do that has since attracted over five million views.
But what is angiogenesis and what does it have to do with starving cancer?
Angiogenesis is the process that our body uses to grow blood vessels, most of which are formed when we’re still in the womb. As adults, our blood vessels don’t normally grow, except in a few special circumstances such as when our bodies are repairing a wound. In order to grow these blood vessels, proteins or “angio-genic factors” are released by our body as a natural fertilizer that stimulates cell growth. Then, when the wound is repaired and those excess blood vessels are no longer needed, the body prunes them back to normal using naturally occurring inhibitors.
Cancers begin as microscopic cells that cannot progress by themselves. They need a blood supply to provide them with the nutrients required to grow. Without this stimulation, most cancers will never become dangerous. However, when cancer cells bind themselves to a cancer-causing chemical (carcinogen) they produce an angiogenic environment that allows them to grow and expand into clusters. This is why angiogenesis is the hallmark of all cancer types, including breast cancer.
But where do these chemicals come from; these angiogenic activators that promote cancerous cell growth?
According the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), most come from animal-based proteins such as meat and eggs, with a remarkable number of cell-growth activators being found in dairy milk. If you haven’t tried almond or cashew milk yet, perhaps now would be a good time to do so!
We are actually forming microscopic cancers in our bodies all the time, and over 40% of women aged between 40 and 50 have cancer cells in their breasts. That’s why it’s so important not only to avoid foods that activate angiogenesis, but to also consume foods that are anti-angiogenic.
In the world of plants, there are a plethora of foods that are naturally anti-angiogenic: foods that can block blood vessel growth and, subsequently, inhibit cancerous cells from ever developing into cancer, even in those for whom cancers run in the family.
For example, repeated tests have shown that an abundance of fruits, herbs, vegetables and spices, such as berries, grapes, soy beans, garlic and parsley, inhibit angiogenesis by over 60%. Even more astonishingly, tests have shown that combinations of these foods provide our bodies with a more potent cancer inhibitor than any foods do by themselves, which proves the beneficial power of “food synergy” (eating a combination of healthful foods rather than a lot of the same food).
Dr. Li and his team tested numerous plant-based dietary factors for their ability to starve cancers and found that eating a whole foods plant-based diet was often more potent at obstructing cancer than the leading cancer-fighting drugs being used today. In addition, the Adventist Health Study – the largest study on vegans and breast cancer – showed that those who followed a plant-based diet had a 44% overall reduction in breast cancer rates compared with meat eaters.
That’s why Dr. Kristi Funk, Angelina Jolie’s breast cancer surgeon, not only prescribes a plant-based diet for her patients, but for herself and her family as well.
When asked in her interview with The Times why all other doctors aren’t also prescribing a plant-based diet for their patients, Dr. Funk responds that:
“[Doctors] feel you are too entrenched in your ways to make a dramatic change, so they spread this false message that moderation is the key and it’s not. Why consume cancer-causing meats in moderation? So that maybe I can remove a moderate part of your breast?”
Based on the science, it’s frustrating that more people aren’t aware of the dietary factors involved in cancer development and that there exists a general state of societal disbelief about the power of plants to make a difference to the outcomes of our genes. That said, it’s good to know that prominent doctors like Kristi Funk are taking a definitive, misconception-busting, nutritionally-guided approach to helping women reduce their breast cancer risk, and that respected news sources like The Times are giving them the platform to do so.
If you’d like to go plant-based to reduce your risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, then Veganuary can help!
PAGE UPDATED JULY 2020