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Introduction to Cancer and Nutrition, written by Michael Guthrie, R.Ph.

Patrick Quillin has written an excellent and well-documented book called “Beating Cancer with Nutrition.” It is available through most bookstores or online at This newsletter will serve as an introduction to the topic of cancer and nutrition. Before we get into the cancer information, we’ll discuss some of the basic science of nutrition.

It is interesting to note that food in the daily diet contains as many as 100,000 substances, of which 300 are nutrients, and 45 are essential nutrients. Let's divide nutrition into two broad categories: macronutrients and micronutrients (other useful components of food aren't digested or metabolized to any appreciable extent. hese include some fibers, such as cellulose, pectins and gums). For the purposes of our discussion, macronutrients can be defined as the elements of our diet that contribute calories. Calories are actually a measurement of energy, and energy potential. Let's look at calories as it affects our weight for starters. Basically, if we consume around 3500 calories, we will gain a pound, and likewise if we burn around 3500 calories we will lose a pound (this is an oversimplification, but adequate for our discussion).

Many of us are familiar with exercise equipment that tells us how many calories we are burning per hour. This can be calculated by the electronics in the exercise equipment due to the fact that calories can be converted to energy, and the equipment knows how much energy we are expending. Calorie requirements vary greatly by age, sex, and physical activity. Typically sedentary women, young children, and older adults need around 1,600 calories per day, while older children, active adult women and sedentary men need around 2,000 calories per day. Active adolescent boys and younger men require around 2,400 calories per day.

Calories come from three types of macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fats (lipids). Carbohydrates and proteins each contain around 4 calories per gram, while fat contains around 9 calories per gram.

Carbohydrates: Here is the technical definition: - Any of various neutral compounds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen (such as sugars, starches, and celluloses), most of which are formed by green plants and which constitute a major class of animal foods. Simply stated, carbohydrates usually come from plants, and are basically sugars and starches.

Proteins: Here is the technical definition: - Any of a group of complex organic compounds, consisting essentially of combinations of amino acids in peptide linkages, that contain carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and usually sulfur. Widely distributed in plants and animals, proteins are the principal constituent of the protoplasm of all cells and are essential to life. (Going back to a Greek word meaning “first” or “primary;” because of the fundamental role of proteins in sustaining life.) The most abundant source of protein comes for most people is meat. Vegetarians must eat particular protein rich vegetables or dairy products to receive their protein requirements. As much as one-half of our dry body weight, including most of our muscle mass, skin, hair, eyes, and nails is made up of protein. A certain number of amino acids are essential to our diet. They cannot be made by our bodies.

Fats: Lipid is the technical term for fat or fat-like substances. Fats are composed of fatty acids, and at least two are essential, that is they must be consumed in our diets. . These essential fats are broken down into two groups: omega 3 and omega 6. Not all fat is bad, in fact, many important functions of our bodies depend on fats.

Cancer Prevention: Nearly everyone now agrees that diet plays a significant role in cancer risk and prevention. The National Cancer Institute and others recommend at least 5 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day. Fruits and vegetables are full of phytochemicals that prevent cancers in a number of ways, including detoxification of carcinogens, repair of DNA, support of enzymatic events, enhancement of the immune system and maintenance of cellular control mechanisms. The National Academy of Sciences and others estimate that nutritional factors account for 60 percent of the cancers in women, and 40 percent in men. Various studies have implicated various dietary culprits including smoked meats, too much saturated fat, not enough fiber, not enough omega 3 fat (such as fish oil), obesity, and too few fruits and vegetables to name just a few. For a full treatment of this subject, pick up a copy of “Beating Cancer With Nutrition” by Patrick Quillin, or “Cancer and Nutrition” by Charles Simone. Just for starters, the following advice from Patrick Quillin’s book is a good place to start.

Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible.

Eat as much colorful vegetables as your colon can tolerate

If a food will not rot or sprout, then throw it out.

Shop the perimeter (outside aisles) of the grocery store.

Nutrition as Part of Cancer Treatment: This is where things heat up a little. Most of us health care professionals were taught that cancer patients need calories, and any old calorie will do. For most, this means lots of sugar, or sugar containing foods. More recent research by forward thinking scientists has cast new light on this topic. The LAST thing a cancer patient needs is sugar. Here’s why.

Let’s talk about energy in the body There is a “currency exchange” for energy in our bodies. The accepted currency throughout the body is something known as ATP. Various metabolic pathways yield various amounts of ATP. Some of these pathways are very efficient, and some are very inefficient. Anaerobic pathways (without oxygen) yield 2 ATP’s per unit of glucose. This is the type of pathway that most cancers utilize. Aerobic pathways (with oxygen) yield 32 ATP’s, a much more efficient system. Normal cells utilize the aerobic pathways. Now here is the important thing. Normal cells can use fats and proteins in these efficient pathways. Because cancers require so much raw material (sugar) for their inefficient pathways, cancer patients often begin wasting, a process called cachexia. In fact, about 40% of cancer patients die of starvation.

By avoiding all simple sugars, we tax the cancer cells directly. The body will maintain a low-normal blood glucose on the diet we use at the Immune Institute. Another way this “low glycemic” diet works is by keeping insulin under control. Insulin spikes (which are caused by ingestion of sugar) stimulate the production of “bad” prostaglandins, which help fuel cancer proliferation.

For those skeptical of such a simple concept as starving cancer cells of sugar, consider the following quotes from medical authorities (excerpted from Quillin).

“In normoglycemic hosts the in vivo (in the body) consumption of glucose by neoplastic tissues was found to be very high. Cerebral (brain) tissue is reported to use from .23 to .57 grams of glucose per hour per 100 grams of brain and rates as one of the highest consumers among the normal tissues. However, hepatomas and fibrosarcomas consumed roughly as much glucose as the brain, and carcinomas twice as much..” (Guillino, PM, Cancer Research, vol.27, p.1031, June 1967)

“The glucose utilization rate in neoplastic tissues, unlike in host tissues, is high. Glucose is, in fact, the preferred energy substrate, utilized mainly via the anaerobic glycolic pathway. The large amount of lactate produced by this process is then transported to the liver where it is converted to glucose, thus contributing to further increase host’s energy wasting.” (Rossi-Fanellie, F., J. Parenteral Enteral Nutr.,vol.15, p.680, 1991)