Continuing our Anticancer theme, let’s take a quick look at the key things to consider nutrition-wise, largely inspired by David Servan-Schreiber’s great book Anticancer and supported by Notes on other great books.
We’re going to focus on three relatively simple things we can do that will have the most immediate impact 80/20 style.
The first thing we want to do is eliminate added sugar and refined flour. These have NO place in any diet and certainly not one if we’re either fighting cancer or all in on preventing cancer.
Sugar disrupts our insulin and creates inflammation — the perfect fuels for cancer. In Eat Move Sleep, Tom Rath calls sugar “Candy for cancer.” The head nurse and the dietician in my brother’s hospital both said, “Cancer LOVES sugar.”
(Yet, when I asked the nurse what the hospital’s nutritional philosophy was she groaned and said they didn’t have one. And, I still can’t wrap my brain around the fact that the oncologist had a bowl full of candy in the sign-in area of his office and told my brother he didn’t need to think about changing his nutrition at all although he was admitted with a blood glucose level in the diabetic range. We’ll save that for a longer conversation for another time.)
The second thing we want to do is reduce inflammation even further by Optimizing our omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. We do that by eliminating vegetable oils and factory-farmed animals from our diet.
Short story there: Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory. Omega-6s are inflammatory. We need both. The ratio back in the hunter-gatherer days used to be 1 to 1. Now it’s something like 16 to 1 in favor of omega-6s. As Christopher McDougall puts it in Natural Born Heroes, our bodies need a modest inflammatory response — think of a fire in the fireplace. But… With the modern western diet, we have a raging inferno of inflammation that’s burning down the house. Not good.
Practical steps: First, eliminate vegetable oils. They didn’t exist pre-Industrial Revolution and yet today they account for a CRAZY % of calories. Go to your pantry and throw away everything with soybean oil, canola oil, safflower oil, etc. (Olive oil is fine! So is coconut oil.)
And, quit eating factory-farmed animal products. In addition to getting sick from eating grains they didn’t evolve to eat (and then being jacked up with antibiotics that you then consume), all that grain they eat leads those factory-farmed animals to have a disrupted omega-3 to omega-6 ratio which then negatively impacts your ratios. That’s one of the reasons you should only eat grass-fed beef.
The third thing we want to do is reduce what’s known as mTOR activation that’s associated with nearly every cancer out there. Here’s how Dr. Mercola puts it in Fat for Fuel: “Of all the nutrients that stimulate mTOR, amino acids — which are derived from protein — are the most potent. Stimulating mTOR by eating large amounts of protein is also one of the quickest ways to suppress cellular and mitochondrial autophagy, which prevents your body from effectively cleaning out debris and damaged cells. Even if you are optimizing everything you can to keep glucose and insulin levels low, eating excessive protein will still activate the mTOR pathway. If your goal is to treat disease and live long, doing this chronically is something you want to avoid.”
Mercola and Tony Robbins’ doctor, Dr. Gundry, tell us that we want to shoot for “adequate” protein. Not “high” or even “moderate” protein but “adequate” — enough to do the repair work that’s vital to our well-being but no more. They tell us we should aim for .5 grams of protein per lean body mass. So, for example, with my brother weighing in at 155 pounds at around a 20% body fat, he has 31 pounds of fat and 124 pounds of lean body mass. .5 x 124 is 62 grams of protein. With no more than 4 ounces of that coming from animal protein per day. You can track consumption via apps like MyFitnessPal and a food scale (we use this OXO scale).
To recap: Fight inflammation and insulin issues by eliminating sugar and flour. Then fight inflammation even more by eliminating vegetable oils and factory-farmed animal products. Then bring your protein consumption down to “adequate” levels to turn off the mTOR activation.
Thats’ our 80/20 Anticancer Nutrition strategy.
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