The Link Between Nutrition and Cancer

Cancer is a disease of metabolic imbalance. It could originate in a thousand different ways. Yet the body has many built-in mechanisms to thwart the progress of cancer. Scientists agree that nearly all individuals develop undetectable cancer about six times in a 70 year lifespan. Yet only one of three people actually develops overgrown and detectable cancer. With built-in biological check points for detoxification, genetic correction, immune stimulation, and sealing off an abnormal cell growth, the body is equipped to deal with cancer. But all of these biological check points rely heavily on nutrition, which is a serious problem for the typically malnourished American.

Preventing and reversing cancer. It has now been well accepted that proper nutrition could prevent from 50-90% of all cancer.1 It has also been well documented that various nutrients can reverse pre-malignant conditions, including: folic acid and cervical dysplasia (abnormal cells in the cervix), vitamin A and oral leukoplakia (mouth lesions), vitamin E and fibrocystic breast disease, folic acid and bronchial metaplasia (abnormal cells leading to the lungs). Each of these conditions are "regionalized cancers" that have not yet sprung forth into the rest of the body. The next step is for metastasizing cancer.

What is truly remarkable is the apparent inter-relationship of nutrients against cancer. Betel nuts provide a tobacco-like chew for hundreds of millions of people in third world countries. The effects of betel nuts includes a pre-cancerous condition called oral leukoplakia, in which there is a white film over the mouth surface, which can mature into full blown cancer. Years ago, researchers showed that vitamin A or beta-carotene can reverse oral leukoplakia. In a quest for a patentable version of vitamin A that would have the same results, researchers dabbled with 13-cis retinoic acid in oral leukpoplakia, yet found severe toxicity reactions. Now we find that vitamin E may do what vitamin A did, without any side effects, and that beta-carotene coupled with vitamin E shows the greatest synergistic and non-toxic combination of all.

Researchers at M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston gave 800 iu of vitamin E daily to 43 patients with oral leukoplakia for 24 weeks of treatment. Twenty of the 43 subjects, or 47%, had clinical responses, which means at least 50% disappearance of lesions, and 9 more had histological improvements (can be seen on a microscope). Given the toxicity of 13-cis-retinoic acid, it seems that vitamin E deserves further attention as a chemopreventive agent.2

So nutrition is definitely a potent weapon at preventing cancer, and has been scientifically demonstrated to reverse certain pre-cancerous conditions. The question then becomes: "How far downhill can this cancerous process roll before nutrition is no longer effective?" No one knows.

Long History. There is a long history in the link between nutrition and cancer. Over 2000 years ago, Chinese medical texts referred to "an immoderate diet" increasing the risk for esophageal cancer.3 Throughout the early 20th century, epidemiological and animal lab data continued to accumulate showing that a diet high in fat and/or low in vitamin A elevated the risk for cancer. By 1964, the evidence was sufficient for the World Health Organization panel, headed by the noted authority Sir Richard Doll, to issue a tidy little pamphlet on the causes of cancer, including nutrition. All of the cancer risk factors listed in this booklet still ring surprisingly true today. By 1982, the National Academy of Sciences in America endorsed the nutrition to cancer link with their technical book that began with an unscientifically exuberant proclamation: "Spread the good news that cancer is not as inevitable as death and taxes."

Negative image. Unfortunately, the nutrition to cancer link also has a negative connotation that must be overcome. Some of the early efforts at using nutrition in cancer treatment centered around starving the patient with the intent of starving the cancer out of the body. Didn’t work. As experts in parasitology know, the host usually dies before the parasite. Next came drugs that interfered with nutrient pathways in the body, such as the folic acid inhibitor, methotrexate. These early scientists reasoned: "Obviously, if drugs that inhibit vitamin pathways can slow cancer, then high dose supplements will only make matters worse". Also, not so. The scant evidence that was provided by proponents of nutrition in cancer treatment consisted of emotional testimonials. A few researchers labored intensely on a Holy Grail quest for one nutrient that might cure cancer–with no results.

Nutrients feed cancer? Then physicians tried to use the fledgling field of parenteral nutrition, involving feeding liquid nutrients through a vein, to prevent wasting cancer patients from starving to death. The nourishment accelerated the disease. Once again, the cancer specialists reasoned, "If you feed the patient, then you also feed the tumor." However, in recent research, scientists found that the standard high sugar, low protein parenteral formula used to feed these cancer patients does indeed accelerate tumor growth, while a newly developed disease-specific formula of low sugar and high protein may selectively starve the tumor.4

Case closed, thought the pioneer oncologists. Not only does nutrition not help the cancer patient, but it may accelerate the course of the disease. Even in 1992 after extensive research, it is entirely possible that some nutrients-notably iron, salt, sugar, and omega 6 fats like corn oil-may accelerate tumor growth. With such a dubious beginning, it would take a miracle to resurrect medical interest in nutrition for cancer patients. But miracles are happening.

Paradigm shift. Nutrition is a science, born out of the related disciplines of biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and medicine. Historically, early nutrition scientists looked at nutrients to prevent clinical deficiency syndromes. A newer paradigm examines secondary functions of nutrients when given at "higher-than-normal" intake levels:

  • Various nutrients have been shown to reverse pre-malignant lesions.
  • Vitamin C intake at 300 mg daily, which is 500% of the RDA, provides an extra 6 years of life in men.
  • Folacin supplements at 200% of the RDA can virtually eliminate neural tubes defect, a common birth defect also called spinal bifida. The Center for Disease Control, a branch of the federal government, has issued a statement encouraging women of childbearing years to take supplements of folacin. Meanwhile, another branch of the federal government, the Food and Drug Administration, is making serious efforts to make nutrition supplements only available by prescription.
  • Various nutrients at above RDA levels, including B-6, zinc, selenium, and vitamin E, have been shown to elevate immune function beyond what is accepted as "normal", which provides for 6 colds per year and a 33% chance of eventually getting cancer.
  • Vitamin E supplements at 600% of the RDA lowers the risk for heart disease dramatically.
  • Niacin supplements becomes a potent and non-toxic agent to lower serum cholesterol when given at 1000% of RDA levels.
  • Certain inherited mental problems, including autism (with B-6 & magnesium), schizophrenia (many nutrients), and bipolar (phosphatidylcholine and tyrosine) are improved and sometimes cured with therapeutic levels of nutrients.5

Essentially, nutrients are emerging as the "biological response modifiers" of choice when considering side effects, efficacy and cost. For a more in-depth look at the thousands of studies which document the therapeutic value of nutrients, see:


There is a clear and unmistakable trend in the scientific literature showing that high dose nutrients have potent therapeutic benefits and have very few side effects.

Synergy with medicine. The synergy between adjuvant nutrition and traditional oncology will likely blossom throughout the 1990s into the accepted mode of humane, cost effective, and clinically effective comprehensive cancer treatment. I have yet to find any valid data showing that proper nutrition therapy will reduce the therapeutic value of medical approaches to cancer. Briefly, the advantages of implementing nutrition as part of cancer therapy include:

1. Avoiding malnutrition. Cancer is a major stress on the body, often causing lean tissue wasting (cachexia) as the body "cannabolizes" its own protein reserves (catabolism) to stay afloat. Tumors are major parasites that drain nutrient reserves from the host. Often, the first symptom of cancer is weight loss. Many tumors can induce loss of appetite in the host. Malnutrition leaves the patient even more vulnerable to tumor progress, infection, reduced response to medical therapy and significant loss in quality of life. Nutrition therapy is the only treatment for malnutrition.

2. Mitigating the symptoms of conventional medical treatment. Properly nourished patients experience less nausea, malaise, hair loss and organ toxicity than patients on routine oncology programs. Cancer patients will sometimes give up therapy because of hair loss, which happens in nearly all chemo patients. Yet studies show that loading the patient with 1600 iu of vitamin E daily for 1 week prior to beginning therapy will allow 69% of patients to keep their hair.6 When high dose anti-oxidants are given to cancer patients for a week prior to beginning chemo or radiation therapy, the resultant fatigue and nausea can be dramatically reduced. Another common side effect of chemotherapy is mucositis, or mouth sores, which are painful and can limit food intake. In a double blind study, 67% of patients given topical vitamin E on their mouth sores improved in the 5 day test period, while only 11% of patients on placebo showed improvement.7 Beta-carotene has shown a similar ability to prevent these nasty mouth sores.8 For over 20 years, scientists have known that by improving the overall quality of the diet prior to and during radiation therapy, patients had a better response to radiation treatment.9

3. Synergistic action with medical treatments. Certain nutrients, like beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium appear to enhance the effectiveness of chemo, radiation, and hyperthermia while minimizing damage to the patient’s normal cells. See the many references in the last chapter for more information.

4. Anti-proliferative factors. While nutritionists often speak of nutrients for proper growth, rarely does anyone mention when growth should taper off. Just like a furnace that keeps cranking out the heat without any shutoff mechanism, cancer is unregulated growth. There is evidence that certain nutrients, like selenium and the fatty acid EPA, have the ability to slow down unregulated growth. Various nutrition factors, including vitamin A, D, folacin and soybeans, have been shown to influence DNA expression in both healthy and tumor tissue.

5. Anti-tumor agents. There are numerous factors in our diet that directly fight tumor cells. Garlic, yogurt, seaweed, cruciferous vegetables, seed foods (like soybeans), dark green leafy vegetables, and tomatoes all contain factors that kill tumor cells and/or stimulate the immune system to produce other anti-tumor components, like interferon or natural killer cells. Many components of dark green leafy vegetables have been found to stimulate immune activity while protecting against the damage from radiation therapy.10 There is also evidence that the individual nutrients of beta-carotene and selenium may be directly toxic to tumor cells. In a landmark study, researchers at Harvard University found that injections of vitamin E, canthaxanthin (a carotenoid compound much like beta-carotene), and extract of spirulina algae reversed cancer of the mouth in hamsters.11

6. Prevention. Most medical treatments for cancer are carcinogenic themselves. We use deadly poisons to hopefully kill off more cancer cells than host cells. Yet, cancer patients have already demonstrated their genetic vulnerability to cancer. For this reason, a major problem in cancer treatment is dealing with the impending tumors that are likely to develop in the patient even if they recover from this current bout with cancer. Proper nutrition minimizes the risk for future tumors.

7. Guidance. Many cancer patients are tempted by foods that would lessen their chances of recovery due to altered taste buds from therapy. Chemotherapy kills rapidly dividing cells, of which about 80% will be cancer cells and 20% will be healthy rapidly growing body cells, primarily the lining of the tongue, lining of the gastro-intestinal tract, hair, nails and the immune system. Because of the damage to the taste buds, cancer patients often have unusual cravings for high sugar, high fat, nutrient-depleted junk food. Their taste buds have temporarily shut down and only foods with strong flavors sound good. To submit to this temptation would be a bad idea. Another problem is that cancer cells are sugar-feeders and tend to siphon glucose out of the bloodstream, thus leaving the patient with lower blood glucose levels and the appetite mechanism in the brain lobbying for the person to eat high sugar foods. Yet to submit to these cravings would be like throwing gasoline on a spark.

Nutrition Affects the Immune System

In the classic thriller from H.G. Wells, WAR OF THE WORLDS, a highly advanced Martian army descends on the earth to take over. The Martian war machines completely overwhelm the paltry defenses of earthlings, when suddenly, all of the Martian war machines topple over with dead occupants. As the author explains, the Martians had long since developed such an advanced society that they had eliminated all disease-causing organisms from their environment, with the resulting effect that their immune systems atrophied for lack of use. Once on earth, amidst our teeming sea of lethal microorganisms, the Martians were no match for tenacious humans. Though the earthlings may have lost the outside war to the Martians, just as medicine is losing the visible war against cancer, our sturdy inner soldiers of the immune system can win the overall battle–against the Martians and cancer.

Most of the great pandemic plagues of history have been preceded by either a war or a crop failure. Take a major dose of psychological stress, whip in widespread malnutrition and sprinkle generously with foreigners innoculating the local people with new diseases for which there is no acquired immunity. Such a situation killed 75 million people, or half the known world, in the 14th century in Europe. Another 21 million people died from the flu epidemic that followed World War I. Historians are only beginning to estimate the millions of Native Americans and Polynesians who died when Europeans brought their new diseases, stress and malnutrition to the New World. From the 16th to 19th centuries, natives from Africa and the Americas were nearly exterminated, not unlike the Martians, by a barrage of infectious diseases.

While there is plenty of evidence linking blatant malnutrition with blatant immune problems, the immune system loses efficiency with even slight malnutrition, or negative emotions or exposure to poisons. The typical American lifestyle of bad diet, stress and exposure to endless pollutants is like making a checklist on how to get cancer.

The trillions of specialized warriors in our immune system are on 24 hour duty, vigilantly destroying and mopping up virus, bacteria, yeast, tumor cells, toxins from both inside and outside the body and even dead cells. When the immune system is crippled by a virus, AIDS may be the result. When the immune system goes awry and begins attacking its own friendly host tissue, then auto-immune diseases may set in, like arthritis, Crohn’s disease and allergies. When the immune system is not functioning at peak efficiency, we may get a cold or an infection. And when the immune system is subdued for any extended period of time, cancer may result.

Immune soldiers are produced in the bone marrow (called B-cells), the thymus gland (called T-cells), the spleen and lymphoid tissue. Among the more crucial immune factors that fight cancer are interleukin, interferon, lymphocytes, Natural Killer cells (NK) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF). Immune soldiers work by literally swallowing the cancer cells (phagocytosis) or spraying toxic chemicals on the cancer cells (chemotaxis). Arginine supplements help kill cancer cells, possibly by providing "bullets" for the immune system, since arginine is so heavily laddened with amine groups which can be dumped on cancer cells as nitric acid. Supplements of arginine and thymus extract also increase the output of the thymus gland to make more T-cells.

One of the main thrusts of this book is to maximize your immune capabilities. Unfortunately, most medical treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, are serious immune depressants. These therapies also induce a loss of appetite which further depresses the immune system with malnutrition. When nutritional support of the immune system is dovetailed with medical treatments, there is often a synergistic tumor kill rate that neither nutrition nor medicine can attain alone. The results are increased chances for recovery with minimal side effects from medical treatment.

The immune system is literally a scoreboard of a person’s nutrient intake, since dietary nutrients provide the raw materials (precursors) to build and maintain the immune system The bulk of immune bodies are composed of protein, which explains why a protein deficiency often leads to depressed immune function. Many cancer warriors, including interleukin and interferon are all measurably reduced in protein malnutrition.

Basically, scientists have shown that "normal" nutrition in America leads to a "normal" immune system, while above-normal nutrient intake provides above-normal immune response. For instance, B-6 supplements at 50 mg per day provided a measurable improvement in immune functions (T3 and T4 lymphocytes) for 11 healthy well fed older adults.12 Both in animals and humans, normal vitamin E intake is not adequate to optimize immune functions.13, but modest supplements of vitamin E do enhance the immune response. Various B vitamins have been linked to the proper functioning of antibody response and cellular immunity. Folate deficiency decreases production of communication substances in the immune system, called mitogens. Deficiency of vitamin C impairs phagocyte functions and cellular immunity, for lowered ability to engulf cancer cells.. Vitamin E deficiency decreases antibody response to T-dependent antigens, all of which gets worse when you add in a selenium deficiency.

Zinc exerts a major influence on the immune system. Lymphocyte function is seriously depressed and lymphoid tissues undergo general atrophy in zinc-deficient individuals. The lymphocytes in zinc-deficient animals quickly lose their killing abilities (cytotoxicity) and engulfing talents (phagocytosis) for tumor cells and bacteria. Natural killer cell and neutrophil activity is also reduced. Copper plays a key role in the production of superoxide dismutase and cytochrome systems in the mitochondria, hence, a deficiency of copper is manifested in a depressed immune system. Iodine allows immune soldiers to make lethal substances to kill invaders. Boron deficiency in chicks creates immune abnormalities like arthritis. Toxic trace minerals, like cadmium, arsenic, and lead all blunt the immune system.

Selenium works in conjunction with vitamin E to shield immune warriors from the toxins dumped on tumor cells. This process allows an increased efficiency of the immune system. Instead of one immune factor killing one cancer cell, then dying in a suicidal pool of toxins; the immune soldier lives on to kill other cancer cells.

In magnesium deficiency, all immunoglobulins (except IgE) are reduced, along with the number of antibody forming cells. Magnesium is crucial for lymphocyte growth and transformation of immune soldiers in response to mitogens sounding the "battle call". Prolonged magnesium deficiency in animals leads to the development of lymphomas and leukemia.

Many of the trace minerals relate to immune competence. Iron presents a particularly unusual case because:

1. iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common malnutritive conditions in the world

2. iron deficiency will depress the immune system

3. iron excess may stimulate tumor growth

4. unbound iron can trigger free radical destruction, which can suppress immune functions, attack the delicate DNA or accelerate aging.

Just as the iron in your car can rust, the iron in your body can rust, or oxidize, and damage delicate tissue and blood vessel walls. Good research shows that higher iron reserves in the body will elevate the risk for both cancer and heart disease.14 Unbound iron, which is an oxidizing metal, coupled with low level anti-oxidants may create a "dynamite and blasting cap" situation in the body to trigger cancer. You need enough nutrients to make adequate red blood cells, requiring folacin, B-12, B-6, zinc, iron, copper and protein. You also need enough anti-oxidants, like beta-carotene, vitamin C, E, and selenium, to ensure that iron will not oxidize and damage the precious DNA. Also, the oxidized iron salts (ferric chloride) used to fortify white flour should be avoided.

Cancer can bind up iron supplies for its own growth and also use the iron like a battering ram to barge through cell membranes. Hence, many cancer patients have very low blood levels of iron. Yet giving a cancer patient high doses of non-heme iron may accelerate tumor growth. We have found that patients’ serum iron levels will spike up precipitiously when the medical therapy starts killing the tumor, which causes the tumor to release its iron stores. The liver will then begin to store the excess iron from the bloodstream and anemia goes away. Iron intake needs to be well regulated–not too much, and not too little and always in the presence of anti-oxidants to check the destructive internal "rusting" of iron.

Too much fat or the wrong kind of fat in the diet will depress the immune system. A deficiency of the essential fatty acid (linoleic acid) will lead to atrophy of lymphoid tissue and a depressed antibody response. And yet excess intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids, like soy and corn oil, will also diminish T-cell immune responsiveness. Intake of protein, carbohydrate and fat influences insulin levels which drive the prostaglandin pathways, which have a major impact on immune performance. Sustained high blood sugar levels, such as occurs in the high sugar diet of most Americans, will depress immune function. Oxidized cholesterol is highly immuno-suppressive. Cholesterol is less likely to oxidize while in the presence of anti-oxidants, like vitamin E, C, and beta-carotene.

Basically, nutrition plays a critical role in the effectiveness of the immune system. A healthy immune system is better able to join in the battle to rid the body of tumor cells.

Nutrients as Biological Response Modifiers

While many very bright people have labored intensely, extensively and expensively to develop some "magic bullet" substance that would cure cancer, Nature has been patiently working on the same project for a couple of billion years. The National Cancer Institute has dedicated much time and resources to creating "biological response modifiers (BRM)", such as interferon, tumor derived activated killer cells (TDAK) and interleukin in an effort to use biological agents to kill cancer. Thus far, this work has been disappointing, since the side effects are so dramatic, the cost so high, and results are good in only a few types of cancers, like kidney cancer.

However, you can take effective, inexpensive and non-toxic BRM agents–available now at your grocery and health food store. Americans choose their food for reasons of taste, cost, convenience and psychological gratification. All of those reasons are fine as long as the top priority in food selection is its BRM activity. Everything that you put into your mouth will eventually have an impact on your health–for better or for worse.

Biologists are fascinated with the different levels of cancer incidence in animals. Most creatures don’t live long enough to get cancer. A majority of chickens will get cancer if allowed to live beyond 3 years. Many cattle carry a virus that has been linked to leukemia. Several epidemiological studies show that cat owners have a slightly elevated risk for cancer, perhaps due to the feline leukemia virus carried by many cats. Sharks will not get cancer, even if bathing in cancer causing agents, due to the special proteins in shark cartilage that inhibit cancer growth. While other fish usually don’t live long enough to get cancer, in some polluted streams and lakes in America, two out of three fish have cancer from industrial carcinogens.

Among humans, cancer incidence is 33% in heavily polluted America, but 7% in underdeveloped nations, while archeologists speculate that 0.1% of our primitive ancestors got cancer. The reason for this major difference in cancer incidence is that our level of stress, pollution and refined diets have overloaded, underfed or shut down the BRMs developed by Nature to squelch cancer growth in humans.

Think of your built-in cancer protective mechanisms like a defensive football line, arranged in hierarchical pattern. If the cancer (runner) breaks through the front line tackles and guards (primary defense), then the linebackers (secondary defense) are supposed to shut down the cancer. If secondary defense mechanisms are overwhelmed, then the defensive backs (tertiary defense) are called upon. More on this subject in chapter 7, which explains the strategy of why my program works.

The more I study Nature and the human body, the more reverence I develop for the Great Engineer who designed us. There are elaborate and elegant systems in place in your body to prevent and even reverse the growth of cancer. While cancer is certainly taking its toll in suffering and lives, cancer is not our predetermined fate. We have chosen to ignore the laws of nature which provide substantial cancer protection. Americans live in a treacherous environment of stress, toxins and non-nutritive food. When, not if, our bodies begin to fail, then we try surgery or poisons to get rid of the defective parts. Just as surely as the law of gravity pulls us to earth, the law of BRMs is inescapable. Our current system is not working. The answers to cancer lie patiently waiting for humans to swallow our pride and accept the protective mechanisms which have evolved over eons. In a later chapter, the action plan shows you how to use readily available foods and supplements to restore these protective mechanisms back into optimal functioning.

From this brief explanation, you can see that humans are not entering the arena unprepared to fight cancer. Cancer has been with us long enough that we have evolved various procedures to thwart cancer. What you put in your mouth can have a major bearing on the quality and quantity of life for cancer patients. Food, water, oxygen and supplements can be potent BRMs in cancer treatment.

Risk to Benefit to Cost Ration of Nutritional Therapy

Modern medicine is founded on principles of allopathic drugs and surgery, which are unsurpassed methods in emergency medicine. Although these techniques are very risky, not applying them may be even more risky. Hence, the modern physician and nurse develop a very skeptical approach to any treatments that claim to help. If the treatment helps, then it must carry with it a long list of complications and side effects. With nutrition, that is usually not the case.

To illustrate, Henry Turkel, MD, both a physician and scientist, found that a certain collection of nutrients improved the overall condition of Down’s syndrome. He was able to demonstrate changes in IQ, immune capacity, appearance and even X-rays by using his nutrition formula. He applied for a drug patent on his "Eutrophic" formula in 1959, but was denied FDA approval because there was no toxicity level for his formula.15 The FDA will only allow therapeutic claims to be made on any substance after the applicant has proven both the effective dose and the toxic dose, called the lethal dose required to kill half the rats (LD-50). Since Dr. Turkel’s formula had no toxicity, it could not be granted a drug patent. Many Americans still have the misconception: "If it can’t hurt you, then it can’t help you either."

There are major differences between drugs and nutrients. Hence, the risk to benefit paradigm is dramatically different. To contrast drugs and nutrients:

There are a few nutrients that can be toxic when used indiscriminately. Preformed vitamin A, from animal sources or as retinyl palmitate, can be toxic when pregnant women consume as little as 10 times the RDA, or when others consume as little as 200 times the RDA. The plant version of vitamin A (beta-carotene) is non-toxic in humans. Vitamin D can create calcium and heart abnormalities in some sensitive individuals when consumed at levels of 5 times the RDA for many months. Iron toxicity is possible in adult males, since they have no monthly outlet for excess iron stores. Acute iron toxicity is possible and happens at least 6 times each year when some child eats an entire bottle of adult formulated vitamins with iron. Selenium toxicity may start as low as 25 times the RDA in some sensitive adults. Show me a prescription drug which is safe for anyone at 25 times the recommended intake.

Although vitamin and mineral supplements can be abused, they are rarely harmful and almost never fatal. Compare the safe track record of nutrients to the estimated 300,000 annual deaths in America from drug and surgery complications, called iatrogenic deaths. According to the Food and Drug Administration, Center for Disease Control and Public Citizen Health Research Group, one year of adverse prescription drug reactions included:

  • 61,000 people with induced parkinsonism
  • 32,000 hip fractures, including 1,500 deaths
  • 16,000 injurious car crashes
  • 163,000 with memory loss
  • 659,000 hospitalizations
  • 28,000 cases of life-threatening or fatal reactions to digoxin (digitalis)
  • 41,000 hospitalizations, including 3,300 deaths from aspirin-like compounds
  • all together, 9.6 million older adults each year suffer adverse drug reactions

Meanwhile, there has not been a fatality from vitamins, minerals, herbs or homeopathic remedies in the past 10 years. You can see why the risk to benefit ratio indicates that nutrients may help and rarely do any harm.

For the cancer patient, nutritional supplements can cost up to $20 per day with a full regimen of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, shark cartilage and herbal extracts. Enteral feedings can cost up to $40 per day and parenteral feedings (nutrients injected into the veins) can cost $600 per day. Compare these cancer costs to $900 per day for drugs, $3400 per day for hospitalization and $100,000 for bone marrow transplant operation. Many cancer patients outlive their insurance, which often is a $200,000 maximum that the insurance company will pay. Not only is nutrition therapy effective and safe, but about as cost effective as it gets in health care.

The Authorities’ Viewpoint of Nutrition and Cancer

The data on nutrition and cancer has become so overwhelming that the National Cancer Institute has instigated a "Designer Foods Division" which is charged with researching the various known anti-cancer substances in food, like indoles from cabbage. The National Institute of Health has been pressured into opening a new branch, called the Office of Alternative Medicine, which will provide research grants to further examine some of the topics discussed in this book. The National Cancer Institute is now spending about $100 million annually to investigate the prospects of using nutrition to prevent cancer. The Office of Technology Assessment, an advisory branch of Congress, listed nutrition as one of the few credible alternative cancer approaches.

Both the Surgeon General of the United States and the National Academy of Sciences, which include our most decorated scientists, have endorsed the nutrition to cancer link. Even the American Dietetic Association has offered their recommendations for using nutrients to help prevent cancer: 12,500 iu. for vitamin A, 200-800 iu. for vitamin E, 1000 mg for vitamin C, and 200 mcg for selenium.16 All of these doses are well above Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) levels and constitute an enlightened change of policy for the ADA.

Professors at Harvard University have published considerable evidence in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine showing that 90% of all cancer is environmentally caused and therefore preventable. Our incidence of breast cancer is 500% higher than Japan and is related to our diet. These experts highlight the power broker nutrients in cancer: fat, selenium, vitamin A, C, E, and fiber.17

While most of these groups strongly endorse the ability of nutrition to prevent cancer, they are less enthusiastic about using nutrition as part of comprehensive therapy. Yet, in degenerative diseases, like heart disease and cancer, the cause is directly linked to the cure. The same diet that Dr. Gerson used to help reverse cancer is now endorsed by the American Cancer Society to help prevent cancer. If allergies caused the arthritis, then only allergy avoidance will cure the arthritis. If chromium deficiency caused the adult onset diabetes, then only chromium supplements will cure the diabetes. While 15,000 iu of beta carotene can dramatically cut the risk for getting cancer, it may take 100,000 iu of beta carotene in the cancer patient to provide therapeutic stimulation of the immune system. While the numbers may change, there is a common thread running between a nutrition program to prevent cancer and one to buttress traditional cancer therapy.

Why Don’t more Hospitals use Nutrition in Cancer Treatment?

Many patients come to me with the same misinformation: "My doctor told me that nutrition has nothing to do with cancer outcome, so I should eat whatever I want". I then must spend considerable time explaining to these patients that their doctors are providing the best information available from their peer groups and mean no harm to the patient in this "sin of omission". If the data in my book is so solid, non-toxic, and cost-effective, then why don’t all hospitals use it? There are a number of obstacles.

1. Physicians are not trained in nutrition. An old saying goes: "What you are not up on, you are down on." Physicians are very bright and capable individuals who have saturated their brains with over a decade of rigorous and expensive college education. Doctors are quick to delegate patient care to the ancillary specialists of respiratory therapists, physical therapists, occupation therapists, and psychologists. Yet, in spite of the fact that physicians are not trained in nutrition, they insist on controlling nutrition. This illogical hierarchy leads to inadequate patient care and needs to be remedied. Let the experts of various fields work together in a cooperative venture to heal the patient. Let’s not make the patient’s illness a forum for power struggles.

2. Time lags. It takes decades if not centuries to implement proven findings. It was two thousand years after the Greek astronomer, Eudoxus, discovered that the earth was not at the center of the solar system before his findings were finally accepted. Spanish explorers in the 17th century brought potatoes back to Europe, and, in spite of the fact that an advanced Incan culture had thrived on potatoes for centuries, the European scientists proclaimed the potatoes only acceptable as animal feed. In the early 1900s, gold and aspirin were acceptable treatments for arthritis. Then someone proposed that arthritis was an infectious disease, hence aspirin and gold were discarded as worthless therapies, even though they worked. In the past decade, evidence was re-established that arthritis is a degenerative disease, and that aspirin and gold are effective treatment. It was fifty years after limes were positively proven to prevent and cure scurvy that limes were finally mandated aboard all English vessels. It was twenty years after niacin was proven to both prevent and treat pellagra that scientists finally accepted the fact. Time lags are an unfortunate aspect of life and can be a fatal aspect of cancer treatment.

3. Nutrition therapy is often not reimburseable. Patients are nearly totally dependent on their insurance companies for paying health bills. Many insurance companies will not pay claims for nutrition therapy, sometimes even for life-saving nutrition support for starving patients. It has been proven beyond argument that the well-nourished patient is better able to manage any disease, including cancer. Insurance companies will pay $3,000 per day for cancer patients to be hospitalized, but balk at the idea of paying $20 per day for therapeutic supplements to dramatically improve quality and quantity of life for the cancer patient.

Prioritizing Nutritional Needs of the Cancer Patient

Not all nutritional intervention is of equal value for the cancer patient. For instance, if you wanted your car to go faster, it would be much more effective to put in a bigger engine, rather than remove the outside mirrors for less wind resistance. Similarly, I have met people who were more concerned with the pesticides residues on their food supply than the 2 packs of cigarettes they were smoking. We need to keep our fears and risk factors in the proper perspective. I have ranked the main nutrition approaches used to treat cancer in descending order: those listed first are most critical. Don’t waste time with something minor, when a major issue has been neglected.

Avoid malnutrition. Up to 40% of all cancer patients die from malnutrition18. It is crucial to provide quality calories and protein to slow down the wasting that often occurs in cancer. Cancer elevates calorie needs, while chemotherapy often causes nausea and poor eating habits. The metabolic by-products of cancer can blunt the appetite. End result: the patient ends up eating less and needing more. The consequences can be catastrophic. For patients who cannot or will not eat, nutrients can be infused into the patient’s veins, a medical process called total parenteral nutrition, or TPN.

Immune stimulation. There is an abundance of data linking nutrient intake to the quality and quantity of immune factors that fight cancer. Therapeutic levels of vitamins C, E, A, beta-carotene, zinc, selenium and others are crucial to nourish the microscopic battle within.

Protection from therapy. While chemo and radiation therapy can significantly reduce tumor burden, they can also be carcinogenic. By loading the patient with therapeutic levels of anti-oxidants (vitamins E, C, beta-carotene, selenium, and some botanicals), the oncologist can make medical therapy more of a "selective toxin". Tumor cells do not absorb anti-oxidants as efficiently as do healthy cells. The net effect is to first give "bullet proof vests to the good cells", then "spray the area with machine gun fire" (i.e. chemo and radiation) to kill more cancer cells. Secondary tumors, a serious problem in various cancers, can be prevented with optimal nutrient loading during cancer therapy.

Selectively starve the tumor. Tumors are primarily "sugar feeders", meaning that they are fueled by blood glucose, not fats or protein. Americans not only consume about 20% of their calories from refined sugar, but also ride the roller coaster of wild swings in blood glucose levels. This constant intravenous infusion of cancer fuel is a primary reason for our cancer incidence. By maintaining lower levels of blood glucose, the patient can selectively starve the tumor while also reaping the benefits of lower insulin output which favorably steers prostaglandin synthesis. Also, the sodium to potassium ratio in the American diet favors the growth of tumors. It has been speculated that a high salt diet changes the dynamics of all cell membranes and makes the passage of oxygen and nutrients more difficult across the membrane barrier. The atmosphere then becomes ideal for cancer growth.

Feed Biological Response Modifiers. Provide optimal support for the internal biological mechanisms that help us all fight cancer all of the time.

Does Nutrition Really Help Cancer Patients?

Yes. There have been many efforts to pinpoint any number of "magic bullet" nutrients for cancer patients. Yet, only a few scientists have conducted more realistic research using a comprehensive blend of a healthy diet coupled with high dose nutrition supplements. Drs. Hoffer and Pauling instructed patients to follow a reasonable cancer diet, similar to what is outlined in this book, coupled with therapeutic doses of vitamins C, A, E, niacin, and a broad spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement. All 129 patients in this study received the best oncology care available in North America–whatever his or her doctor felt was most appropriate. The results of this study are nothing short of headlines material. The group of 31 patients who did not receive nutrition support lived an average of less than 6 months. The group of 98 cancer patients who did receive the diet and supplement program were categorized into 3 groups:

  • Poor responders (n=19) or 20% of treated group. These people may have been nearly unsalvageable with their advanced cancer. They had an average lifespan of 10 months, or a 75% improvement over the group not on nutrition. Some cancer patients have exhausted their "cellular reserve" or ability to recover from disease.
  • Good responders (n=47), who had various cancers, including leukemia, lung, liver, and pancreas; had an average lifespan of 6 years.
  • Good female responders (n=32), with involvement of reproductive areas (breast, cervix, ovary, uterus); had an average lifespan of over 10 years. Many were still alive at the end of the study.

In another study, Dr. Marc Goodman and colleagues at the University of Hawaii examined the diet and lifespan of 675 lung cancer patients over the course of 6 years. The more vegetables that women consumed, the longer they lived; with a 33 month lifespan for best veggie eaters and 18 months for veggie haters.19 A separate group of researchers provided high doses of vitamins A, C, and E to cancer patients who were being treated by traditional oncologists. Of the 20 patients evaluable for a response after one year, 7 had a complete response (35%), 8 had a partial response (40%) and 5 failed therapy (25%).20 A particularly intriguing patient in this study had advanced pancreatic cancer with metastasis to the liver. He recovered completely with no sign of disease, which happens in less than 2% of pancreatic patients.

Professor Harold Foster of the University of British Columbia examined lifestyle changes in patients who experienced "spontaneous regression" from cancer, which is a euphemism for "these people should have died". Anything that we can learn from these cancer victors who beat the odds may be valuable. Of these survivors, 87% made a major change in diet, mostly vegetarian in nature, 55% used some form of detoxification and 65% used nutritional supplements.21 Researchers compared survival in macrobiotic followers versus patients who continued with their standard Western lifestyle. Of 1467 pancreatic patients who made no changes in diet, 142 (10%) were alive after one year, while 12 of the 23 matched pancreatic patients (52%) consuming macrobiotic foods were still alive after one year.22 Similar benefits were seen in 9 prostate cancer patients adhering to macrobiotic foods (median survival 228 months) versus 9 matched controls who made no changes in diet (medium survival 45 months).

Nick Gonzales, MD is a Sloan-Kettering trained oncologist who uses a comprehensive nutrition program to treat cancer patients. Dr. Gonzales reports far better than average results in his advanced cancer patients.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America has been using nutrition as part of a comprehensive cancer therapy program for 18 years. Thousands of our patients have enjoyed a marked improvement in quality and quantity of life due to adjuvant nutrition therapy. Many were given a death sentence by other clinics. I have personally worked with hundreds of cancer patients who have made dramatic recoveries through adjuvant nutrition therapy.

Cornelius Moerman, MD was a Dutch physician who lived to the ripe age of 95, during which he spent 40 years developing a nutrition program that helped hundreds of cancer patients. Dr. Moerman’s program is now accepted by the Dutch government as a legitimate cancer therapy.23 A physician wrote about his use of the macrobiotic diet to beat untreatable advanced prostatic cancer.24 Anne Frahm, a young mother of three children, battled advanced breast cancer for 2 years with surgery, chemo, radiation and bone marrow transplant. When her physicians finally gave up on her, she used the macrobiotic diet to beat her cancer.25 Another book has compiled 30 cancer victors who triumphed over advanced cancer with nutrition and mental changes after failing medical therapy.26 One of the founders of this field, Max Gerson, MD highlighted his 30 years of clinical experience with 50 exemplary cancer victors who used his nutrition program to beat cancer.27 Charles Simone, MD is one of the few oncologists in the world who has been trained in all three medical therapies to fight cancer: medical oncology, tumor immunology and radiation therapy. Dr. Simone has used aggressive nutrition therapy for years to help hundreds of cancer patients, including former president Ronald Reagan.

The odds of all these successes being nothing but random occurrence are about the same odds as you being struck by a meteor while sleeping tonight. A professionally managed nutrition program not only improves the quality and quantity of life for nearly all cancer patients, but also improves the odds of complete remission–a cure.

The Components of a Nutritional Program

Providing proper nutrient intake levels requires a multi-faceted approach to nutrition:

1. Food. If the gut works and if the patient can consume enough food through the mouth, then this is the preferred route for nourishing the patient. We are only beginning to understand the elegant symphony of anti-cancer substances in our diet. Food is a high priority item in the nutrition program for cancer. When the GI tract is not used, it can atrophy or bacteria can cross from the intestines into the bloodstream to cause infections.

2. Supplements. Additional vitamins, minerals and other supplements in both pill and powder form can make significant contributions to the patient’s nutrient intake.

3. Total parenteral nutrition (TPN), There are many cancer patients who are so malnourished that we must interrupt this deterioration with "tube feedings". TPN allows the Metabolic Support Team of physician, nurse, dietitian and pharmacist to provide quality nutrient intake in spite of the patient’s inability to eat. TPN can be an invaluable life raft during the crisis phase of cancer treatment.

4. Assessment. It is important to determine the patient’s nutrient status through:

  • Computer diet analysis to provide a nutrient breakdown of what the patient has been eating.
  • Allergy testing to find problems in immune function.
  • Functional vitamin assays to determine how close to saturation blood vitamin levels are.
  • Provocative mineral assays to detect sub-optimal levels.
  • Health history form, including habits and environmental exposure to health hazards, which offers clues regarding the origin of the cancer.
  • Physician’s examination of skin, eyes, grip strength, tongue, and other external signs can provide vital clues to the patient’s nutrient status.
  • Percent body fat via skinfold or Futrex infrared analysis is a key indicator of cachexia (lean tissue wasting) or obesity.
  • Calorimeter measures the oxygen consumed and carbon dioxide exhaled to provide exact information regarding the patient’s calorie needs.

5. Education. The patient needs a sense of involvement and control in their condition, which can improve the chances for recovery. Just as much as the patient’s lifestyle may have contributed to the problem, an involved patient can help reverse the problem. We need to convert the patient into a valuable ally, rather than trying to force unwanted lifestyle habits onto an unwilling person.

6. Research. Those who advance the knowledge base have a responsibility to properly gather data and report their findings to the world.

Progress Slow-But Sweet

In the 1950s, Dr. Max Gerson, was ostracized and defrocked in the U.S. for his notion that eating properly might help the course of otherwise untreatable cancer patients. Today, the American Cancer Society has endorsed a diet that is remarkably similar to Gerson’s diet. In the 1970s, twice Nobel laureate and member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, professor Linus Pauling, was ostracized for suggesting that vitamin C may improve the quantity and quality of life for cancer patients. Pauling’s work eventually inspired a conference held at the National Institute of Health in 1990 on the subject of vitamin C and cancer. Recently, a prominent cancer journal featured Pauling’s face on the cover. In the early 1980s, it was difficult to get any credible scientists to attend meetings that looked at nutrition to prevent cancer. In November of 1992, the world’s finest researchers from the best universities gathered to cross-pollinate their findings on using nutrients as "non-toxic chemotherapy". The time’s they are a changin’.


1. Quillin, P, HEALING NUTRIENTS, Random House, NY, 1987

2. Benner, SE, et al., Journal National Cancer Institute, vol.85, p.44, 1993

3. U.S. Dept. Health Human Services, THE SURGEON GENERAL’S REPORT ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH, p.177, GPO # 017-001-00465-1, Washington, DC, 1988

4. Rothkopf, M., Nutrition, vol.6, no.4, p.14S, July/Aug 1990 suppl.


6. Wood, L, New England Journal Medicine, vo.312, no.16, p.1060, 1985

7. Wadleigh, RG, American Journal of Medicine, vol.92, p.481, May 1992

8. Mills, EE, British Journal of Cancer, vol.57, p.416, 1988

9. Cheraskin, E., et al., Acta Cytologica, vol.12, no.6, p.433, 1968

10. Lau, BH, International Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol.12, no.3, p.147, July 1992

11. Shklar, G., et al., European Journal Cancer and Clinical Oncology, vol.24, no.5, p.839, 1988

12. Talbott, MC, et al., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol.46, p.659, 1987

13. Bendich, A., et al., Journal of Nutrition, vol.116, p.675, 1986

14. Nutrition Reviews, vol.47, no.6, p.176, June 1989; see also Stevens, RG, et al., New England Journal of Medicine, vol.319, p.1047, 1988

15. Turkel, H., Journal of Orthomolecular Psychiatry, vol.4, no.2, p.102, 1975

16. Watson, RR, and Leonard, TK, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, vol.86, p.505, Apr.1986

17. Willett, WC, and MacMahon, B., New England Journal of Medicine, vol.310, p.633, Mar.8, 1984; and again p.697, Mar.15, 1984

18. Grant, JP, Nutrition, vol.6, no.4, p.7S, July 1990 supplement

19. Goodman, MT, et al., European Journal of Cancer, vol.28, no.2, p.495, 1992

20. Sakamoto, A, et al., in MODULATION AND MEDIATION OF CANCER BY VITAMINS, p.330, Karger, Basel, 1983

21. Foster, HD, International Journal Biosocial Research, vol.10, no.1, p.17, 1988

22. Carter, JP, et al., Journal American College of Nutrition,vol.12, no.3, p.209, 1993

23. Jochems, R., DR. MOERMAN’S ANTI-CANCER DIET, Avery, Garden City, NY, 1990

24. Sattilaro, AJ, RECALLED BY LIFE, Avon, NY 1982

25. Frahm, AE, et al., A CANCER BATTLE PLAN, Pinon Press, Colorado Springs, 1992

26. East West Foundation, CANCER FREE, Japan Publ, NY 1991

27. Gerson, M., A CANCER THERAPY, Gerson Institute, Bonita, CA 1958

Leave a Reply