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Evidence of foods that have been shown to have a direct positive influence on cancer patients

  1. Nov 25, 2018 #1


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    Using the keywords "nutrition" and "cancer", the Internet spews out thousands of articles. Ignoring the supermarket-checkout-magazine type of article, the others tend to either (a) be debunking various myths or (b) advising to avoid carcinogenic substances or (c) recommending to have a healthy diet in general to avoid conditions (obesity, starving, circulation problems, etc.) that could weaken the immunological system. However, I do not find -- but perhaps I am not looking in the right place -- evidence of specific foods that have been shown to have a direct (instead of the indirect connection via "general health" such as keeping up the immune system) benefit for a human patient who already has cancer (especially lung cancer). Does this exist?
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  3. Nov 25, 2018 #2


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  4. Nov 25, 2018 #3


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    I'm not sure how much evidence there would be on specific foods, though much research on cancer and metabolism is ongoing. Furthermore, cancer is not one single disease, so the answer may be quite different depending on the type (or even subtype) of cancer. Here are a few that come to mind:

    1) Eating grapefruit can affect how the body takes up and metabolizes specific drugs, so people taking specific drugs should usually avoid eating grapefruit while taking these drugs: https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm292276.htm

    2) Very new, preliminary research suggests that diet could boost the effectiveness of certain chemotherapy drugs. Essentially, certain anti-cancer drugs disrupt metabolic signaling processes throughout the body, such as insulin signaling, which can cause unwanted side effects that in some cases can require patients to be taken off treatment. In some cases, it may be possible to control these side-effects through control of diet (for example, using a low carbohydrate diet to prevent hyperglycemia that might occur from treatment with certain anti-cancer drugs). These benefits, however, have only been demonstrated in animal studies and await clinical trials in humans to verify their safety and efficacy. For more info see:
  5. Nov 26, 2018 #4


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    Thanks very much, Ygggdrasil and CWatters.
    CWatters: unfortunately, the first of the two links you posted offers only a short abstract, with an option to pay for the full article. Sometimes abstracts are sufficiently informative, but this one begs to see the details behind it. You wouldn't have a link to a pre-print?
  6. Dec 4, 2018 #5
    Really most nutritional advice seems to reflect a moral message rather than credible evidence a classic example would be the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, its based on a diet, no one in the Med has every eaten and the benefits, well there aren't any. Most of the stuff you will see is based on prevention and even that has weak to none existent support. You seem to be looking for things that are often described as functional foods and there have been some interesting ideas, some more credible than others but they never seem to do what was expected. Various antioxidants were really thought to offer hope but basically what was discovered is that we didn't understand what the body used them for our white cells uses reactive oxygen to kill abnormal cells, giving large doses of antioxidants can interfere with this function, they found that people taking supplements actually increased their risk of cancer. Its now thought that they also interfere with treatments like radiotherapy.
    Apparently cancers generally are less efficient in their use of nutrients and require lots of glucose, so the idea was to adopt a a very low sugar diet to starve the cancer, it didn't. In fact the only ones left that still seem credible are diets rich in phytoestrogen like soya which could influence cancer of the prostate, but we have drugs that are far more efficient.
    So I'm afraid there is nothing that has evidence of any direct effect and this must be a difficult time to be diagnosed with cancer as there are so many developments, people might feel they will miss out on some new treatment and lung cancers are notoriously difficult to treat.
  7. Dec 4, 2018 #6


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    Thanks, Laroxe, this was also my impression. The article
    does a good job in indicating the negative results of research on antioxidants and a few other substances, and
    is pretty good in saying that apparently the idea that cancer risk might be lowered by certain nutrients came historically from a false contrapositive from correlations between the extreme lack of certain nutrients and a higher rate of cancer --i.e., that some substances may be carcinogenic, but that this conclusion has not been borne out.
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